Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: A ‘foundation’ shaken to the core by a split

Filed on May 4, 2021

Individually and as one, they were tireless in their global quest to bring transformation to disadvantaged persons.

Theirs was an ideal story of success, one that, admiringly, was adaptive to the evolving times spanning decades — using innovation to change lives, globetrotting the world to bring about change, and championing the real meaning and responsibility of what it is to have wealth. They say all good things must come to an end, but not everything should do so in tragedy. The shock split-up of Bill and Melinda Gates goes beyond the money-can’t-buy-you-everything point. Individually and as one, they were tireless in their global quest to bring transformation to disadvantaged persons. And it seems that, no matter how many lives they were able change and how much more they would’ve, success can’t do that either.

Bill — at present the fourth-richest person — was Microsoft’s boss when he first met Melinda, joining as one of his product managers in 1987, and married her seven years later. While Bill had indeed made a number of enemies for his aggressive style at the helm of the tech giant, his mellowed approach to things and charitable exploits later on endeared him to the public. Melinda, meanwhile, turned out to be the perfect complement. The Gates’ saga is eerily similar to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott: Former boss-and-employee relationship, married for over two decades and running a business empire with lots of philanthropy before calling it quits in 2019. The only difference is that the Gateses are somewhat revered, a feel-good story; while Jeff didn’t exactly benefit from bad Press that got magnified in the age of social media, the biggest of which was the affair that led to his divorce. Doesn’t matter if he’s the richest man on Earth with over $200 billion; even the slightest bit of perception can alter the way people are viewed, which is why the Gateses ending in divorce is stunning multi-fold, compared to the Bezoses.

In over two decades, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent almost $54 billion towards noble causes, besides the billions that others such as Warren Buffett have channelled through it. To say that no one saw this split coming is a gross understatement. As of this writing, we don’t know the reasons behind their break-up, but a simple line from the ‘our story’ section on their foundation’s website could sum it up: “Factors outside of anyone’s control make it hard for some people to reach their potential.” Here’s to hoping that the real ‘foundation’ Bill and Melinda established would survive beyond their failed marriage.

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