A timeline of Bill and Melinda Gates' relationship | CNN Business (2023)

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Bill and Melinda Gates announced the end of their 27-year relationship Monday, shocking the business and philanthropic worlds.

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the couple, well-known for their wealth and commitment to philanthropy, said in a statement.

The pair spent nearly three decades together in a relationship that focused on philanthropy, work and family. Together, they were one of the richest and most philanthropic power couples in the world.

Here’s a timeline that breaks down the biggest moments of their relationship.

1987: Meeting at Microsoft

Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft (MSFT), which launched in 1975, and he met Melinda French through the company in 1987. At the time, Bill was the CEO of Microsoft (MSFT) and Melinda worked in product development.

But it was hardly love at first sight. “When we first met, she had other boyfriends, and I had Microsoft,” Bill said in a 2019 Netflix docuseries “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates.” Melinda echoed that sentiment in the docuseries, saying, “I was new to Microsoft. There were a lot of men there.”

1993: Making it official

In 1993, Bill proposed to Melinda. Shortly after getting engaged, the pair was spotted sharing a Coca-Cola at a Seattle Sonics basketball game, a moment that was captured by news stations at the time.

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1994: Walking down the aisle

Bill and Melinda Gates tied the knot on New Year’s Day in 1994 at the island of Lanai in Hawaii. Warren Buffett was among the guests. They tried to keep it as private as possible, booking all the empty rooms at the hotel where their guests were and hiring all the island’s helicopters to keep paparazzi at bay. Even so, some reporters and photographers nearly got through before being intercepted by security personnel and driven to Lanai Airport to leave the island, according to the Seattle Times.

A timeline of Bill and Melinda Gates' relationship | CNN Business (1)

Bill Gates and Melinda French greet guests during a reception on Jan. 9, 1994 at a private estate in Seattle. The couple was married the week before in Hawaii.

1995: Microsoft launches Windows 95

On August 24, 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95, an operating system that revolutionized technology.

“We knew we were changing the world,” Melinda said in “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” recalling her experience at Microsoft. “Every time we put out a product, it changed things for people.”

It was a year filled with teaching moments. In 1995, Melinda gave a demo from a project she led called Microsoft Bob — a software product with virtual rooms and characters that was intended to provide a more user-friendly interface. It was an experience she called a failure in a recent LinkedIn post. “The program needed a more powerful computer than most people had back then, and a lot of critics found the visuals too cute,” she said. Ultimately, the project was killed, but she said some of its features wound up in other Microsoft products in later years.

1996: Welcoming their first kid

Bill and Melinda welcomed their first daughter, Jennifer, in 1996. Now 25, Jennifer attends the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. She posted about her parents’ split on Instagram Monday, saying, “It’s been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family.”

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1999: A son is born

The couple’s son, Rory, was born in 1999. He is now 21 years old. “He’s a great son and a great brother,” Melinda told TIME in 2017. “But one of the things that makes me proudest is that Rory is a feminist,” she said.

A timeline of Bill and Melinda Gates' relationship | CNN Business (2)

Bill and Melinda Gates announced the creation of the Gates Millennium scholarship progam.

2000: Forming the foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 2000, and it is funded by the couple’s personal wealth as well as several other Gates family foundations and a gift pledged by Warren Buffett. Since 2000, the foundation has spent nearly $54 billion on a wide range of initiatives related to global health, poverty alleviation and more since then, according to its website.

“We listen and respect each other and then we come to a common viewpoint and that’s what we take forward,” Melinda said in “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” referring to their foundation work.

A timeline of Bill and Melinda Gates' relationship | CNN Business (3)
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Bill and Melinda Gates walk on a street in December 2005 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded health programs.

On Monday, after the couple’s divorce was announced, the foundation released a statement. “Bill and Melinda will remain co-chairs and trustees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. No changes to their roles or the organization are planned,” it said. “They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction.”

2002: Second daughter is born

In 2002, their second daughter and youngest child, Phoebe, is born.

2005: Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year

In December 2005, Time Magazine named Bill and Melinda Gates the Persons of the Year alongside U2 frontman Bono, calling them “The Good Samaritans.” In January of that year, their foundation committed $750 million to improving access to child immunizations, accelerating introduction of new vaccines and strengthening vaccine delivery systems, according to CNN.

“We’re grateful that Time recognizes the importance of the world’s inequities, whether they are in the United States or thousands of miles away,” the couple said in a statement after the announcement was made. “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. But we also believe that everyone has something to offer — time, money, or energy — that can help others,” they added.

A timeline of Bill and Melinda Gates' relationship | CNN Business (4)

Bill and Melinda Gates were TIME Persons of the Year with Bono in 2005.

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2010: Foundation’s big vaccine donation

The Gates Foundation announced it would donate $10 billion for vaccine research over the next 10 years to help research, develop and deliver vaccines — including vaccines to prevent severe diarrhea and pneumonia — to the world’s poorest countries.

In 2020, as coronavirus spread across the globe, the Gates Foundation committed more than $1.7 billion to support the “research, development and equitable delivery” of tools to fight Covid-19, including tests, treatments and vaccines.

2015: Melinda launches Pivotal Ventures

Melinda Gates launched Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company, in 2015. Gates said the company specifically focuses on “dismantling the barriers to women’s professional advancement.”

A timeline of Bill and Melinda Gates' relationship | CNN Business (5)

Bill and Melinda Gates in New York in January 2015.

In 2019, she pledged $1 billion to expand women’s power and influence, and over the next 10 years, she said, the company will distribute that money to partners who are implementing innovative strategies to advance women’s power and leadership.

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2021: The end

Bill and Melinda Gates announced their split in a simple, four sentence statement posted to social media Monday: “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage. 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 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.”


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