Tuesday, August 3

Bill and Melinda Gates’ Love Story Revisited: A Timeline

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates have announced their plans to divorce, which came as a shock to many after they shared 27 years of marriage.

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” they shared in a statement on Monday, May 3. “Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives. We continue to share a believer in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

The couple met in 1987 when Melinda started working at Microsoft, the company Bill founded. 

“She had other boyfriends, and I had Microsoft,” Bill said in the 2019 Netflix miniseries Inside Bill’s Brain. “We were like, ‘Hey we are not really serious about each other, are we? We are not going to demand each other’s time.’”

Eventually, after the romance got serious, Bill made a pro/con list for whether he should propose (really), and they decided to embark on a life together. Bill and Melinda married in 1994 at a Hawaiian destination wedding.

The two welcomed their first child, daughter Jennifer in 1996. Son Rory arrived in 1999 and daughter Phoebe followed in 2002.

Though the mother of three eventually stepped back from her job at Microsoft after nine years, she continued working with her husband. They launched the earliest version of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 1994, and the philanthropic organization — which focuses on global health, education, access to digital information via public libraries, and support for at-risk families — is still thriving.  

Working together as well as raising a family together, there’s a certain intensity to that. But we’re very lucky because we mostly see things the same way, the goals are very much the same,” Bill said in a 2019 Facebook Live

The Texas native praised the Microsoft founder for sharing the workload with her, whether that meant dropping kids off at school or doing dishes. 

“I think people have a certain view of Bill, because he was a high-charging CEO running Microsoft,” the author told USA Today while promoting her book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World in 2019. “I think people must think, ‘Oh well, Melinda must not really have equality with Bill.’ Actually, I have total equality with Bill. But it took a while for us to get there.”

Daughter Jennifer, a second-year medical student at Stanford, acknowledged her parents’ split in a statement on Instagram

“It’s been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family,” she wrote in an Instagram Story at the time. “I’m still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as family members at this time, and am grateful for the space to do so. I won’t personally comment further on anything around the separation, but please know that your kind words and support mean the world to me.” 

Scroll through for a full timeline of Bill and Melinda’s romance:

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Bill and Melinda meet for the first time while attending a PC trade show in New York City. Bill asked Melinda out several weeks later, and he had to set the date two weeks in advance due to his busy schedule.

Ed Bailey/AP/Shutterstock

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The couple married on the Hawaiian island of Lanai on New Year’s Day.

Dave Weaver/AP/Shutterstock

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Bill and Melinda’s first child, Jennifer, is born. Melinda decides to step down from her career to focus on raising her daughter and welcomes son Rory in 1999 and daughter Phoebe in 2002.

“Just like in a family with kids, in business, we show up with a united front that this is who we are,” Melinda said.

Courtesy Melinda Gates/Instagram

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The couples’ past charitable organizations reorganize and become the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and they both serve on the board of trustees. Bill says it’s an equal partnership. 

“In the case of Melinda, it is a truly equal partner,” Bill said in the Netflix doc. “She’s a lot like me in that she is optimistic and she is interested in science. She is better with people than I am. She’s a tiny bit less hardcore about knowing, you know, immunology, than I am.”

Kenneth Lambert/AP/Shutterstock

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2005-named Time’s Persons of the Year

Their charitable efforts get plenty of public attention, and they’re named Time’s Persons of the Year along with Bono. “We realize that we’ve been extremely fortunate in business, and we want to give back in ways that can do the most good for the most people,” they said in a statement at the time. “But we also believe that everyone has something to offer — time, money, or energy — that can help others.”

Paul Grover/Shutterstock

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When Melissa releases her book, she and Bill do several interviews highlighting the strength of their marriage. “I’m always interested in his point of view and I know he’s always interested in mine, I think sometimes our disagreements sharpen the questions that we ask each other,” Melinda said in a 2019 Facebook Live.

Pierre Villard/Sipa/Shutterstock

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The couple announced their divorce and court documents reveal that they have a separation contract. 

Elaine Thompson/AP/Shutterstock

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