KEY POINTS

  • Bill and Melinda Gates have signed a separation contract
  • A separation agreement contains stipulations on how wealth and properties will be divided
  • Their divorce settlement could be one of the largest in history

Bill and Melinda Gates did not sign a prenuptial agreement before getting married but have a signed a contract with stipulations on how they will divide their wealth in case of a separation, sources reveal. 

The philanthropist couple on Monday announced their decision to separate after 27 years of marriage, saying they can no longer "grow together as a couple."

“We continue to share a belief 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. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life,” the couple said in a statement posted on social media.

According to the court documents, obtained by TMZ, the couple did not sign a prenup but instead had a separation agreement. 

A separation contract is a legal document that lists the rights and obligations of the couple should they decide to live separately. The document is signed without the presence of the court, according to the New York City Bar. Sometimes a separation contract may be followed by a divorce.

In their divorce filings, the couple asked for their properties and debts to be split according to the terms in their separation contract. Melinda did not ask for spousal support. 

Without a prenup, the settlement from their divorce could be one of the largest in history, Business Insider noted. Bill Gates is currently fourth on the list of richest people in the world. He is currently worth an estimated $146 billion.

Cascade Investment, a holding company founded by Bill Gates, on Tuesday transferred equities worth $1.8 billion to ex-wife, Melinda. She now owns 14.1 million shares of Canadian National Railway Co. and 2.94 million shares in AutoNation Inc., AlJazeera reported.

If the pair splits their fortunes equally, Melinda gates would have a net worth of $65.25 billion, according to Forbes. She would surpass MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who is worth $59.8 billion. 

Bill and Melinda met in 1987 when he was the CEO of Microsoft and she worked in product development. The couple became engaged in 1993 and married on New Year’s Day in 1994 at Lanai, Hawaii. 

The philanthropist couple shares three children: 25-year-old Jennifer, 21-year-old Rory, and 18-year-old Phoebe. 

Bill and Melinda Gates (pictured during a 2011 visit to a village in India's Bihar state) have chaneled billions to global health and education programs through their foundation Bill and Melinda Gates (pictured during a 2011 visit to a village in India's Bihar state) have chaneled billions to global health and education programs through their foundation Photo: AFP / STR