Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce could prove to be one of the most expensive in history as the former power couple look to break up their £93billion - $130bn - fortune.
The couple’s split will be the largest division of assets since Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie split in mid-2019 - when Bezos walked away with 75% of Amazon, and MacKenzie with $35.8b worth of shares.
Divorce documents between Mr and Mrs Gates reveal their 27-year marriage is 'irretrievably broken'.
It shows the billionaire exes had no prenup – meaning it could take years to reach a financial settlement.
If the couple split their assets 50:50 - the likely arrangement - it could see the Microsoft founder drop from number four to number seven on the official billionaires’ index.
Bill and Melinda married in 1994 on the Hawaiian island of Lanai. On Monday, the pair, who have previously described married life as 'incredibly hard' publicly confirmed their decision to part ways.
Lawyers will now seek to divide their colossal wealth, although the Microsoft founder has previously said his three children will inherit just a fraction of his fortune – at just $10million each.
Legal papers obtained by The Sun reveal that Melinda, 56, filed for the divorce, and said that the "parties are separated".
"We ask the court to dissolve our marriage and find that our marital community ended on the date stated in our separation contract," the papers state.
The documents suggest no prenuptial agreement was in place when the couple tied the knot almost three decades ago.
The filing states that the only written agreement that relates to the divorce is the aforementioned separation contract.
Melinda does not appear to be asking for any spousal support from the 65-year-old Microsoft co-founder, who's said to be worth about $124billion. Melinda alone is understood to be worth $70billion.
Gates said they decided to end the marriage after a 'great deal of thought and a lot of work' - two years after his wife admitted that marital life was 'really hard'.
He noted that they had raised 'three incredible children' and will continue in their philanthropic work.
"We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives," Gates wrote in the statement posted to Twitter.
"We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life," he concluded. Melinda tweeted an identical statement to her account.
Bill and Melinda met in 1987 at a business dinner in New York City, and after a year of dating, it was reported that Bill had to make a pros and cons list about getting married.
The couple eventually tied the knot in Lanai, Hawaii, seven years later, when Gates was 38 and Melinda was 29.
They have three children – Jennifer, 25, Rory, 22 and Phoebe, 19 who between them will inherit $30million each.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Melinda previously admitted that being with Bill was often “incredibly hard”.
“When he was having trouble making the decision about getting married, he was incredibly clear that it was not about me, it was about ‘Can I get the balance right between work and family life?”’ she said in 2019.
“You know, we cared a lot for each other and there were only two possibilities: either, we were going to break up or we were going to get married,” Bill said in the Netflix three-episode series "Inside Bill's Brain".
Tech mogul Gates has given $5billion to charity since 1994 and is famed for his philanthropic work which he said will continue through their joint Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
To date, the charity has contributed $45billion to addressing major global issues including gender equality and child poverty.
On top of donations, the Gates family empire is worth billions.
The Gates empire includes homes in five states; a fleet of cars including a rare $2million Porsche; an art collection that includes the $30million Da Vinci Codex that Gates bought at auction; and a series of private jets.
Their family home which took seven years to build is worth an estimated $125million.
Gates is also the biggest private owner of farmland in the United States, with 242,000 acres under his ownership.