Bill Gates is the world’s fourth-richest person and his wife Melinda has frequently ranked as the ‘world’s most powerful woman
How did Bill Gates make his fortune?
Mr. Gates’ wealth comes from Microsoft, which he co-founded with school friend Paul Allen in 1975 after dropping out of Harvard University.
Mr. Gates owned 49 percent of the software firm at its initial public offering in 1986, making him an instant millionaire, however, he has sold or given away much of his stake and now owns just over one percent of shares.
In 1995 at the age of 39, he became the world’s richest person with a $9.2 billion fortune, a title he said he did not wish to have due to the attention it brought.
In 2000 he stepped down as Microsoft CEO and later in 2020 quit as a board member to focus on his philanthropic work.
Aside from the tech company, Mr. Gates has invested in a number of other ventures founding digital imaging company Corbis in 1989 and served as director for investment company Berkshire Hathaway.
Other investments include stakes in automotive retailer AutoNation, water, hygiene, and energy providers Ecolab and think tank company bgC3.
What did Bill and Melinda Gates spend their money on?
The Gates have made some lavish purchases over the years, including a seven-bedroom home on Lake Washington, other properties in Florida and California, and a private jet.
However, the couple isn’t known to spend frivolously and have both said their wealth is “not fair”.
In a 2018 letter discussing their charitable work, Ms. Gates wrote: “It’s not fair that we have so much wealth when billions of others have so little. And it’s not fair that our wealth opens doors that are closed to most people.
“World leaders tend to take our phone calls and seriously consider what we have to say. Cash-strapped school districts are more likely to divert money and talent toward ideas they think we will fund.”
She said the couple had wanted to use their wealth and influence to pursue charitable ventures, launching the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.
In the statement announcing their divorce, the Gates insisted they were committed to continuing work in their private foundation, which aims to steer funding towards projects that improve public health, education, and climate change.
How much money did they dedicate to philanthropic work?
Over the years, Mr. Gates has donated $35.8 billion worth of stocks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and last year pledged the foundation would spend $300 million in the fight against Covid.
In 2010, the couple joined the ‘Giving Pledge’ campaign, signing a commitment to donate at least half their wealth to charity over time.
Mr. Gates has also made personal donations to a number of education institutions, health organizations, and world crises.
In the 2018 letter discussing the couple’s charitable work, Mr. Gates said he had wanted to embark on “meaningful” work that would make a difference.
He wrote: “Even before we got married, we talked about how we would eventually spend a lot of time on philanthropy.
“We think that’s a basic responsibility of anyone with a lot of money. Once you’ve taken care of yourself and your children, the best use of extra wealth is to give it back to society.”
Ms. Gates said they both came from families who believed in “leaving the world better than you found it”.
She added: “Bill and I have been doing this work, more or less full-time, for 18 years. That’s the majority of our marriage. It’s almost the entirety of our children’s lives.
“By now the foundation’s work has become inseparable from who we are. We do the work because it’s our life.”
What initiatives has Melinda Gates launched?
In 2015, Ms. Gates founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment company working towards driving women and families.
She authored the best-selling book The Moment of Lift focused on the inspirational women she met throughout her career and personal travels.
She was also made an honorary Dame of the British Empire for services to philanthropy and international development in 2013.
Ms. Gates is a huge advocate for girls and women within the tech and computing industry and launched a $40 million gender equality fund to support women-led projects which will make its first awards later this year.