Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his longtime wife Melinda Gates made the surprise announcement in early 2021 that they were splitting up. After nearly three decades of marriage, the couple revealed they were calling it quits in a joint statement posted to Twitter on May 3. Bill and Melinda, who share kids Jennifer, 25, Rory, 21, and Phoebe, 18, came to the conclusion that they should divorce “after a great deal of thought,” according to their statement.
“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 to lead healthy, productive lives,” the statement, posted to the Microsoft founder’s Twitter read. “We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the [Gates] foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives.” Read on to find out more about their three children, who have been kept out of the spotlight for most of their lives.
The couple’s eldest daughter Jennifer is a medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. She graduated from Stanford University in 2018, but took a year off to focus on her longtime passion for equestrian show jumping. She began riding horses at the age of six and has represented the US on Nations Cup teams. She has also competed against several celebrity children including Bruce Springsteen’s daughter Jessica.
While Stanford, she told Horse Network that balancing her passion with her schoolwork made her life “a little busy, but I love doing both”. She also has horse riding to thank for meeting her now-fiancee, Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nassar. The pair have been together since January 2017 and he got down on one knee on a ski trip in January 2020. “Nayel always reminds me to believe in myself, which is so important. I’m so lucky to have him as a partner. He’s incredibly supportive, humble and loyal, and someone that I look forward to building a life with,” she previously said in an interview. “I can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives learning, growing, laughing, and loving together,” she wrote in a post announcing the happy news. How sweet!
Middle child Rory is seemingly more reserved than his big sister, and stays mostly out of the spotlight. “Rory is compassionate and curious. He’s an extraordinary child and lovely brother,” his proud mom wrote in an essay for Time on his 18th birthday. “He’s acquired his folks’ obsessive love of puzzles. However, something that makes me proudest is that Rory is a feminist. As he goes out into the world, I feel more optimistic than ever about the future his generation will build.”
Rory is believed to have studied computer software engineering and economics at Duke University, where his mother studied, before pursuing an MBA degree at Fuqua School of Business. “I feel lucky that Rory was born at a moment in history when young men are being encouraged to be so thoughtful about society and their role in it — and also to adopt new, more expansive definitions of what it means to be a man,” Melinda added in 2017.
She also revealed she encourages him to use his voice. “Rory, for his part, does. Across 18 years of conversations, sharp observations and everyday actions, he’s demonstrated his belief that gender equality is something worth standing up for,” she revealed.
The youngest of the Gates children is just 18 years old, and while Phoebe is a fan of TikTok and Instagram, she’s also serious about her studies. She attends Stanford University, like her big sister previously did, however she still makes time for some funny social media clips. In 2020, she posted a video of herself dancing with her billionaire dad at home during lockdown. “This is my dad, he’s been working a lot but we get some time together to goof off,” she wrote. “We hope everyone is staying safe and that our horrible dancing gave you a good laugh.”