William H. Gates III, co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, marries Melinda French on January 1, 1994.

  • By Cassandra Tate
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2295

On January 1, 1994, William H. Gates III, 38, co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, marries Melinda French, 29, a mid-level Microsoft executive, in a $1 million seaside ceremony on the Hawaiian island of Lanai.

The Marriage

To keep journalists from snooping, Gates reportedly booked all the hotel rooms on Lanai and hired all the helicopters on nearby Maui. Among the 130 wedding guests were four billionaires: investor Warren Buffet, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer, and cellular telephone magnate Craig McCaw.

Gates, who would be ranked the wealthiest person in the world by Fortune magazine in June, wore a white dinner jacket and black slacks. The bride wore a $10,000 white silk-faced organza wedding gown by Seattle designer Victoria Glenn. The guests included Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, who said she respected the couple's decision to bar the press. "They really wanted a private, human wedding and they didn't want publicity," she said. "They didn't want people with cameras and notebooks."

The Divorce

In May 2021, the couple announced they were divorcing after 27 years of marriage. "After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," they wrote in a joint statement posted on Twitter. "We have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives. We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives" (Romo).

The split was made official in August 2021 with a divorce filing in King County Superior Court. At the time, according to Bloomberg, Bill Gates was the world’s fourth-wealthiest person, with a net worth of $152 billion.


The New York Times, January 3, 1994; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 3, 1994; People, January 17, 1994; Vanessa Romo, “Bill And Melinda Gates Announce Divorce,” May 3, 2021, National Public Radio website accessed January 3, 2023 (https://www.npr.org/2021/05/03/993242433/bill-and-melinda-gates-announce-divorce)

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