Billionaire Bill Gates gave estranged wife Melinda almost £1.4billion in shares on the day the couple went public with their divorce.
The shares were gifted from Cascade Investment, a company controlled by Bill Gates to manage the proceeds of his Microsoft stock sales and dividends.
On Monday, the company transferred more than 14million shares in Canadian National Railway and over 2.9 million shares in AutoNation, the largest US chain of car dealerships, to Melinda, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The transfers, with a combined value of about $1.8billion, were made just hours after the pair unexpectedly announced their separation after 27 years of marriage on twitter.
It’s since transpired that Melinda filed the court documents, two years after admitting married life was “incredbily hard”.
The deal is understood to be part of a separation agreement put in place by Mr and Mrs Gates who did not sign any prenuptial agreements at the time of their wedding in 1994.
Their legal teams both include lawyers who worked on the divorce settlement between the world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and MacKenzie Scott in 2019.
The divorce petition submitted to King County superior court on Monday and signed by Melinda and Bill Gates described their marriage as “irretrievably broken” and asked the judge to honour a pre-existing “separation contract” for dividing their possessions.
Much of the couple’s wealth is tied up in investments made through Cascade, including in the hospitality, transport, energy and property sectors.
Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft with his late childhood friend Paul Allen in 1975, has a net wealth of $127billion – making him the world's fourth richest man.
The couple's split would push Gates down to number 17 in the official billionaires' list, although Melinda would retain her spot as one of the world's wealthiest women.
In her petition for divorce, Melinda says spousal support is ‘not needed’ – meaning she won’t seek regular payments from Bill.
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The couple have said despite the breakup, they plan to continue their charity work through the Gates Foundation.
They have each pledged to give away most of their fortune during their lifetimes – leaving behind just $10million for each of their three children.
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