Sunday, 9 May 2021

Here’s what’s at stake in Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce

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Being the fourth-richest person in the world gives Bill Gates a lot of purchasing power — and he’s used it to amass an enviable collection of real estate, stocks, sports cars, rare books and artwork.

The divorce suit filed Monday by his wife Melinda Gates, says she and the Microsoft co-founder — who married in Hawaii on New Year’s Day 1994 — don’t have a prenuptial agreement to distribute their estimated $130 billion in assets.

But Bill Gates, 65, and Melinda Gates, 56, signed a separation contract with unspecified terms for dividing their property and possessions, the terms of which weren’t disclosed in the King County Superior Court papers in Washington.

Here’s a peek at some of the stuff that will be divvied up by the famed couple:

Real estate

The Gates’ sprawling, 20-room family home in Medina, Wash. — dubbed “Xanadu 2.0,” after the fictional estate in the classic film “Citizen Kane” — overlooks Lake Washington and has views of the Olympic Mountains.

The high-tech custom mansion took seven years to build, cost $60 million and initially boasted 20,000 square feet of living space, including a 20-seat private theater, a 60-foot-long indoor pool with underwater speakers and a multitude of wall-mounted, video screens hooked up to miles of hidden fiber-optic cable, the Washington Post reported soon after it was finished in 1997.

For added privacy, Bill Gates later spent more than $14 million on 11 properties — including nine houses — to create a buffer around the five-acre estate, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2004.

The massive compound was worth $131 million as of last year, People magazine reported, citing records from the King County Public Assessor’s Office.

The Real Deal has reported that various trusts linked to Bill Gates — whose eldest daughter, Jennifer Gates, is an avid horse rider — have paid about $59 million to assemble a 30-acre equestrian estate in a gated community in Wellington, Fla., where Jennifer Gates is president of Evergate Stables.

Bill Gates also owns a private island, called Grand Bogue Caye, in Belize that’s worth an estimated $25 million, according to CNBC, and a condo at the star-studded Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Mont., where the initiation fee is $300,000 and annual dues are $37,000, according to House Beautiful.

In 2014, Bill Gates bought an equestrian estate in Santa Fe, Calif., from diet mogul Jenny Craig for $18 million and last year, the couple paid $43 million for an oceanfront house near San Diego in Del Mar, Calif., according to the Wall Street Journal.

In addition, the couple has reportedly bought up 242,000 acres of farmland across the country, marking them the largest owners of agricultural property in the US.


When Bill Gates stepped down from the board of Microsoft in March 2020, he held more than 100 million shares in the company, or about 1.3 percent of the software giant he co-founded with the late Paul Allen in 1975.

At the time, the New York Times pegged its value at around $16 billion, but it’s now worth about $26.1 billion, according to CNBC, which cited an analysis by the Wealth-X intelligence and data company.

Bill Gates formerly had a much bigger stake in Microsoft but he’s sold or given away most of it, including by donating $35.8 billion worth of shares to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to Forbes.

Bill Gates also has a holding company, Cascade Investment, that he funded with Microsoft dividends and the sales of his shares, according to CNBC.

It’s worth nearly $30 billion, including $11.9 billion invested in Deere & Co., $11 billion in Canadian National Railway and $1.6 billion in Diageo, according to CNBC.

Sports cars

Bill Gates has a collection of sports cars worth an estimated $650,000, according to CNBC.

The rides include several Porsche models, including a 1988 959 coupe, a Carrera Cabriolet 964 and a 911, the network said.

The silver, air-cooled 959, one of just 337 manufactured, was impounded by US customs agents for more than a decade because it didn’t meet safety and emissions standards, according to the duPont Registry website.

Bill Gates eventually won a “show and display” exemption that limits it to being driven fewer than 2,500 miles a year, according to the website.

His history of owning Porches reportedly dates to 1979, when he bought a blue 911 Turbo that was sold at auction for $80,000 in 2012.

Bill Gates also reportedly owns a Ferrari 348 and a Jaguar XJ6, CNBC said.

Rare books and artwork

In 1994, Bill Gates paid $30.8 million at auction for Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Codex Leicester” notebook, which dates from the last decade of the legendary artist and inventor’s life.

At the time, it was called the “Codex Hammer,” after then-owner Armand Hammer, but Bill Gates restored the name given it in honor of an 18th-century purchaser, Thomas Coke, Britain’s first Earl of Leicester, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Bill Gates is also a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, “The Great Gatsby,” and has at least four rare copies in his home library, which is inscribed with a sentence from the final page, according to the Washington Post.

“He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it,” the sentence reads.

Bill Gates’ art collection is worth an estimated $130 million includes works by American painters Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer, according to CNBC.

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