If Bill Gates and Melinda Gates were to share their wealth evenly, Melinda will be worth $65.25 billion, more than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife,
In 1995, one year after marrying Melinda, Gates became the world’s richest male, with a wealth of $12.5 billion.
The fact that Washington, where the Gates family lives, is a city property state further complicates matters. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, all properties gained by either party during the marriage are considered shared and are usually divided evenly during the divorce.
According to Janet George, a divorce attorney at Washington-based law firm McKinley Irvin, the parties should agree to split their assets in a manner that is “just and equal,” which can result in settlements that aren’t strictly 50/50.
Take, for example, Jeff Bezos and his ex-wife MacKenzie; as part of their divorce settlement, Jeff gave MacKenzie a quarter of his Amazon share.
MacKenzie Scott, who is worth $59.8 billion (Scott did donate approximately $6 billion of her fortune to charitable organizations last year).
In descending order, below are the five main cities.
1. Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott: At least $35 billion.
The couple met in New York while both working at D.E. Shaw, a hedge fund. MacKenzie assisted Jeff in getting Amazon off the ground after they moved to Seattle.
They revealed the terms of their divorce in April 2019: When the settlement was revealed in 2019, she received around 4% of Amazon’s outstanding shares, which were valued at over $35 billion (and far more now, with Amazon stock up nearly 75 percent since then).
Jeff kept the entire rocket company Blue Origin as well as the Washington Post. MacKenzie, who changed her last name to Scott in 2020 and remarried in March 2021, became the world’s third-richest woman after the divorce was finalized.
2. Bill and Sue Gross: $1.3 billion
A new billionaire was born as a result of the Grosses’ messy divorce, while another was dragged down. Sue divorced her husband, the founder of asset manager Pimco, in 2016, and walked away with a $1.3 billion fortune a year later.
A $36 million Laguna Beach home was among the haul, as was “Le Repos,” a disputed 1932 Picasso painting that she later sold for $35 million.
Sue finally took ownership of all three of their beloved cats, despite Bill’s best efforts to keep one of them. Bill was removed from the Forbes 400 list in 2018 after 14 years on the list. Both have their charitable organizations now.
3. Steve and Elaine Wynn: $850 million
In 2010, the cofounders of casino behemoth Wynn Resorts divorced for the second time. Elaine, who has served on the Wynn Resorts board of directors since 2002, was awarded 11 million shares, valued at $795 million at the time.
In the same year, Steve sold about $114 million in stock, with some, if not all, of it going to Elaine as part of the transaction. After suing Wynn Resorts in 2012 to sell a portion of her 9% interest, she was booted from the board three years later after an ugly proxy battle.
Steve sold all of his shares after stepping down as CEO and chairman in February 2018 amid sexual assault charges, which he has refused. Elaine is Wynn Resorts’ biggest individual shareholder, with a net worth of $2.3 billion.
4. Harold Hamm and Sue Ann Arnall: $975 million
Harold sought to end his 26-year marriage to Sue Ann (no prenup) by sending her a check for $974,790,317.77 from his Morgan Stanley account in 2015, after three years of bitter court proceedings.
She deposited it, but later changed her mind, deciding she needed more, and lodged an appeal requesting a larger share of Hamm’s then-$13.7 billion fortune tied to publicly traded Continental Resources.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ended the saga in April 2015, granting Harold’s motion to dismiss Sue Ann’s appeal, reasoning that by signing and depositing the check, Sue Ann had agreed to the settlement.
Sue Ann went on to finance a political action committee that was successful in getting the judge who presided over the divorce to resign.
5. Roy E. and Patricia Disney: $600 million
After 52 years of marriage, Roy and his wife filed for divorce in 2007. They were 77 and 72 years old at the time. Roy, Walt Disney’s nephew, was worth around $1.3 billion at the time. He was a Forbes 400 regular before the split, but he lost nearly half of his fortune and was dropped from the list.
He married Leslie DeMeuse, a writer and producer, in 2008. Patricia died in 2012, a year after he died. Both of their names are on a family fund with assets of $122 million (as of 2018) that supports environmental and economic causes.
Forbes compiled a list of the biggest billionaire splits ever—at least where the money could be tracked. We don’t know the extent of the settlement in certain cases, such as the divorce between Google’s Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, though divorce filings are sealed.