Apparently It’s Really Hard to Divorce an Obscenely Rich Person

The seemingly bombshell divorce between Bill and Melinda Gates has actually been in the works for years

Bill and Melinda Gates sit smiling side-by-side during the Goalkeepers event at the Lincoln Center
Divorce is hard. It's harder with billions of dollars.
LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images

In case you haven’t heard, divorcing your ultra-wealthy, high-profile husband is in for spring 2021. From Bill and Melinda Gates to the former Mr. and Mrs. Kim Kardashian West, some of the most illustrious, moneyed unions of our time are coming to an end this year.

But divorce is hard, and while having billions of dollars at your disposal has a tendency to make things easier, ending a high-profile marriage doesn’t seem to be one of them. In fact, while news that the Gateses were dissolving their long-time union was generally met with surprise, it turns out the bombshell divorce has actually been in the works for years. According to the Wall Street Journal, Melinda Gates began meeting with divorce lawyers back in October 2019, and sources close to the couple reportedly claim Melinda’s concerns about the marriage actually date back to at least 2013.

Likewise, fellow high-profile divorcés Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have been in the process of dissolving their nearly seven-year marriage for some time now. Kardashian filed for divorce in February of this year, but rumors the couple was ending their marriage began swirling in late 2020. Multiple reports suggest Kardashian had actually been planning on ending her marriage for some time prior to the divorce filing — though West, for his part, is reportedly “super annoyed” by the narrative that Kardashian was the primary instigator of their split. Regardless, while notoriously short-lived celebrity marriages may seem like a dime-a-dozen operation, it would appear freeing oneself from a famous spouse takes longer than you might think.

Meanwhile, back in MicrosoftLand, the Gateses have not given a reason for their split beyond the terse statement that they “no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives,” though the WSJ report points to Bill Gates’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein as a significant cause for Melinda’s growing concerns. An earlier Daily Beast report revealed Melinda felt “uncomfortable” when her husband introduced her to Epstein in 2013. Meanwhile, Melinda’s initial meetings with divorce lawyers in 2019 seem to correspond roughly with the revelation that her husband was among the many, many wealthy elite who had potentially unsavory ties to Epstein and his criminal activity.

News that your husband is potentially implicated in one of the largest, most tragic child sex-trafficking scandals of our time seems like a reasonable cause for concern over the state of one’s marriage, so why does it take so long to end it? Apparently it takes a while to divide that kind of wealth, which, in the Gateses’ case, reportedly includes a Forbes-estimated fortune of $130 billion, a $131 million lakeside mansion in Washington state called Xanadu 2.0, investments in Microsoft and Four Seasons Hotels, and a rare Leonardo da Vinci notebook.

Probably also complicating matters is the fact that the couple does not appear to have a prenuptial agreement, suggesting Bill Gates failed to heed the wise advice of fellow divorcé, Kanye West: “If you ain’t no punk, holla, ‘We want want prenup.’”

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