f all goes as well as their apparently amicable divorce has thus far, by around this time next year Melinda Gates will, possibly, be the richest woman in the world or its second richest, vying with the French owner of L’Oreal, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. There’s maybe only a few billion in it, and, depending how the stock markets behave, Melinda could just shave it. Her court date has been set for next April, and, under the jurisdiction of the State of Washington, she is entitled to a straight 50 per cent of the value of the Gates’ fortune amassed since the marriage on New Years Day 1994. Melinda and Bill never bothered with a pre-nuptial agreement, and most of the Gates’ fortune of about $146 billion has been accumulated in the interim. Reportedly, Bill has let Melinda have a couple of billion to tide her over for a bit. Like you do. It will leave the now “Ms Melinda French Gates” (partly reverting to her single name, Melinda Ann French) way ahead of the former Mrs Jeff Bezos, Mackenzie Scott, and a bit better off than Ann Walton, one of the heirs to the Walmart Empire. The Gates will have to carve up the assets, such as the main residence, named Xanadu after the one in Citizen Kane, overlooking Lake Washington and occupying what an estate agent would call an “ample” 66,000 square feet, the holiday homes (such as the $60 million ranch in Florida), the collection of rare Porsches, the da Vinci manuscript, the farm in Wyoming and an awful lot of Microsoft shares. No doubt it’ll all fit on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, and apparently a “contract of separation” has already been drawn up - the kind of rational, conscientious, slightly nerdy approach you might expect. The kids, though, are grown up - Jennifer is 25, Rory 21, and Phoebe 18. Their ages are a bit of a clue - speculatively - that the divorce might have been waiting until they all reached the age of maturity. In any case, their parents’ policy is for them to inherit very little of the fortune.
Melinda’s own family background is firmly professional/skilled and conventional - stable family and she has an elder sister and two younger brothers, who stay out of the limelight.