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Did Bill and Melinda Gates have a prenup? Microsoft boss allegedly spends one weekend a year with ex Ann Winblad

Gates has partnered with Winblad on Hummer Winblad Venture Partners in 1999. They have reportedly maintained a friendship with each other and often mention each other in interviews
Bill Gates and Melinda Gates (Getty Images)
Bill Gates and Melinda Gates (Getty Images)

Bill and Melinda Gates, one of the richest couples in the world, decided to end their 27-year-old marriage on Monday, May 3, which naturally made people speculate how the uber-wealthy pair was going to divide up their billions and massive estate. To make things more complicated, court papers revealed that the former pair did not have any existing prenup.

According to TMZ, which obtained the divorce documents, Melinda was the one who filed for divorce citing that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." The only written agreement pertaining to the divorce is the separation agreement which asks the judge to rule that the marriage ended "as of the date in the separation contract." The contract itself was not included in the filing. It was understood, however, that the couple had separated at some point before their decision to file for divorce and signed a document to officially recognize the separation. The shocking detail, however, was the fact that the estranged couple did not have a prenup, as per the court papers. 


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Phoebe Adele Gates, Bill Gates, and Melinda Gates attend the Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2017 in New York City (Getty Images)

"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," Bill and Melinda announced on Twitter as well as Instagram, referring to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which they founded in 2000. "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."


Why no prenup?

The exact reason as to why the couple does not have a prenup is unclear since almost every high-profile power couple nowadays has an ironclad prenuptial agreement drawn up before entering into marriages to ensure a smooth legal breakdown of assets and other monetary divisions should the union end in divorce at any point in their relationship.

Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates shares the stage with his wife Melinda during the 123rd Stanford commencement ceremony June 15, 2014 in Stanford, California (Getty Images)

Details of a prenuptial agreement are typically kept private. So it would have been natural that the public never got to know the details of such a prenup if Bill and Melinda had signed one. What was surprising is that the court papers made it clear that they did not have a prenup. However, it is interesting to note that a 1997 New York Times article reported that Bill and Melinda did obtain a prenup before marriage.

According to the article, a prenup is drawn up "to embody the desires of the parties in clarifying and settling their respective property rights in an effort to eliminate the pressure any uncertainty about such rights could exert on the further development of their physical and emotional relationship." However, in Bill and Melinda's case, under Section 11 entitled “Written Agreements,” the divorce papers stated they have a “separation contract pursuant to RCW 26.09.070,” which detailed how the couple will split their assets and property.

There might have been a prenup that mentioned Bill Gates' ex-girlfriend

Before marrying Melinda in 1994, Bill dated a well-known entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ann Winblad in the '80s but never married her. After she sold her software company Open Systems Inc, she began consulting for other tech companies, including Microsoft, when she met Bill. Even though the two broke up without ever tying the knot, they remained amicable. 

Entrepreneur and businesswoman Ann Winblad (Getty Images)

Although there are reports which said that Bill and Melinda do not have any active prenup, Distractify reported that the couple did in fact once have a prenup but it had more to do with Winblad than money. Apparently, when Bill and Melinda signed their prenup agreement, there was reportedly a clause in it that stated Bill was allowed to spend at least one weekend a year with his ex-girlfriend. Bill has partnered with Winblad on Hummer Winblad Venture Partners in 1999. They have reportedly maintained a friendship with each other and often mention each other in interviews.

Also according to Keon Family Law, Bill reportedly asked Melinda to sign a prenup after their marriage, which means she might have technically signed a postnup at some point in deference to Microsoft shareholders. However, it is uncertain if that agreement too, is valid at the present. 

Bill and Melinda's marriage was 'irretrievably broken'

Bill and Melinda Gates' divorce filing has a line reading their marriage was "irretrievably broken". It also states neither Melinda nor Bill, have requested fees or an order of protection. It was also a surprise that no spousal support was requested. The couple's property and finances were asked to be divided between the two of them.

Although the couple is likely to settle the divorce without a trial, the two have asked for a trial date in April 2022 for now. Melinda also filed an automatic temporary order setting financial restraints. It restricted both of their ability to dispose of property or make changes to insurance policies, except as agreed in writing or as ordered by the court.