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Most expensive divorces: From Jeff Bezos to Rupert Murdoch

Joanna Whitehead and Chelsea Ritschel
·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The news that Bill and Melinda Gates are to divorce after 27 years of marriage has come as a shock in the worlds of philanthropy and technology.

In a joint statement posted to Twitter on Monday, the couple wrote: “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage.

“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.

“We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life,” it finished.

The Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist and his wife have amassed a $130bn fortune, placing them in the top five richest couples in the world.

While the couple have confirmed that they will continue to run the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major funder of health and disease initiatives around the world, together, details of how their divorce settlement will play out are currently unknown.

One thing is certain: it’s likely to involve vast sums of money. We look back at some of the most expensive divorce settlements in history.

Jeff Bezos and Mackenzie Scott: $38bn

The couple met while working at hedge fund DE Shaw, and Scott subsequently helped Bezos launch global marketplace Amazon.

In April 2019, the couple announced the terms of their divorce. She received a four per cent stake in Amazon worth more than $35bn, the value of which has rocketed over the past year.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Scott, who remarried in 2021, promised to give away at least half of her fortune. She is now the world’s fourth-richest woman with a net worth of $61.2bn.

Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein: $2.5bn

Prior to the Bezos/Scott settlement, Jocelyn Wildenstein’s settlement of $2.5bn and $100 million each year for 13 years afterwards from her billionaire art dealer husband Alec in 1999 was the biggest in history.

The Swiss-born socialite and businessman met in their thirties and had two children.

In 1997, Jocelyn claimed to have discovered her husband cheating, resulting in him reportedly threatening her with a gun and subsequently spending a night in prison.

Divorce proceedings began immediately. The terms of Jocelyn’s divorce settlement included the unusual order that she could not use the funds for more cosmetic surgery, after she had become increasingly infamous for her extreme cosmetic surgery procedures.

Rupert Murdoch and Anna Maria Mann - $1.7bn

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and Anna Maria Mann married in the 1960s and were together for 32 years, in which time they had three children together.

The couple split in 1998 and divorced the following year, at which point Mann received $1.7bn in the settlement, which included $110m in cash.

Just 17 days after the divorce was finalised, Murdoch married Wendi Deng, a Chinese-American actor and businesswoman who was 38 years his junior.

Harold Hamm and Sue Ann Hamm - $1bn

In 2012, Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources, and his wife Sue Ann Hamm filed for divorce after 24 years of marriage.

In November 2014, Hamm was ordered to pay his ex-wife nearly $1bn, with CNBC noting that $322.7m of the fortune was expected to be paid that same year.

The remaining amount was reportedly ordered to be paid to Sue Ann in monthly installments of $7m.

Michael Jordan and Juanita Vanoy - $168m

Jordan and Vanoy met in1985 at a restaurant in Chicago, before tying the knot in a Las Vegas wedding in 1989.

However, the pair, who share three children together, eventually decided to separate in 2002 amid cheating rumours.

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

After a brief period of reconciliation, the couple announced they would be divorcing again in 2006 after 17 years of marriage.

Vanoy received $168m in the divorce settlement, according to Chicago Business, which notes that the amount makes the divorce one of the largest in sports history.

Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren - $100m

Woods and Nordegren, a former model and nanny, met in 2001, before marrying three years later in a Barbados ceremony.

Getty Images
Getty Images

The professional golfer and Nordegren announced they would be divorcing in 2010 after just six years of marriage.

At the time, it was alleged that the settlement could be up to $710m, however, according to Forbes, the final settlement was $100m.

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