Melinda, who has empowered feminist causes, could be soon left in charge of $73bn. In a divorce petition filed on Monday, the philanthropist said her relationship to Mr Gates had “irretrievably broken”. She also urged the courts to divide up the pair’s collective fortune of $146bn (£105bn).
Their assets include a $125million (£90.3 million) compound on the outskirts of Seattle, a seaside property in San Diego and a ranch home in Santa Fe.
The billionaire couple also own the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, founded in 2000.
The company has contributed more than $50 billion (£36.01) to various issues, including the elimination of polio and malaria.
Rob Reich, a professor of political science at Stanford University, told The New York Times: “Since the Gates foundation is a family foundation and the Gateses are breaking apart their family, the divorce may have huge repercussions for the foundation and for its work across the globe.”