Washington: The divorce between Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates is now final.
A judge for the King County Superior Court in Washington state signed the dissolution decree Monday, ending the 27-year marriage between the co-founders of the influential Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation while leaving the details of how the couple divided one of the largest fortunes in history shrouded in mystery.
Public filings showed that billions of dollars of shares were transferred into French Gates' name following the public announcement in May of their plan to divorce. Forbes now estimates French Gates' net worth at $3.2 billion, though it could be much higher. The magazine estimates Gates' net worth at $131 billion.
The separation agreement that determined the split of assets was "not filed with the court," according to a notation scrawled in blue ink on one of the court documents. It remained unclear, for instance, who will receive their 66,000-square-foot lakefront estate in the Seattle suburbs.
The couple's three children are all over 18, so there was no custody arrangement necessary. The court document said that neither party had asked to make a formal name change, though French Gates has been publicly using her family name together with her married name since they separated.
In contrast, when Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott divorced, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission detailed how Bezos would keep three-quarters of the couple's shares of Amazon, while Scott would hold onto the rest, which came to 4% of the company.
The largest outstanding question is how, or indeed whether, the divorced couple can work together at their enormous charity. Gates and French Gates have insisted that they will continue to work on behalf of the foundation's shared mission in areas including global health, poverty reduction and gender equality.
Last month they announced that they had given an additional $15 billion to foundation, adding to its $50 billion endowment, which already made it by most measures the largest private charitable foundation in the world. The chief executive of the Gates Foundation, Mark Suzman, also said the foundation would add new outside trustees, a step toward better governance that philanthropy experts had urged for years.
At the same time, Suzman said that Gates and French Gates had agreed that if either person found after two years that they could not work together French Gates would leave the foundation, receiving funds from Gates to pursue her own charitable endeavors.
French Gates signed her part of the divorce papers Friday at the offices of her own organization, Pivotal Ventures, an enterprise focused on gender equality and social progress.