Divorce, for whatever reason, can be complicated. While celebrity and business magnate settlements aren’t always public knowledge, estimates are frequently based on a couple’s total worth. The money is the most juicy aspect of any high-profile split.
So, when Bill and Melinda Gates announced their surprise divorce, all eyes were on their bank account — and how one of the world’s wealthiest couples would divide their enormous wealth. With an estimated $130 billion in assets, the Microsoft co-founder, 65, and Melinda Gates, 56, will almost certainly be contenders for one of the most expensive divorces ever, joining the ranks of billionaire couples such as Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott or Jocelyn and Alec Wildenstein.
According to what we know, the following are some of the most expensive divorces in recent history.
Alec Wildenstein and Jocelyn Wildenstein
Jocelyn Wildenstein, better known as “Catwoman,” had the most expensive divorce settlement when she divorced her billionaire art dealer husband, Alec Wildenstein, in the late 1990s.
Jocelyn walked away from the marriage with a $2.5 billion settlement after she discovered him in bed with another woman.
However, she appears to have spent most of her fortune, declaring bankruptcy in 2018.
Jeff Bezos & MacKenzie
MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos Scott Lowdown: After 25 years of marriage and four children, the world’s richest couple announced their divorce on Twitter in 2019. “After a long period of loving exploration and trial separation,” the Amazon CEO explained, “we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends.”
Described as the “Godzilla” of divorces, it resulted in the largest divorce settlement ever. Scott met Bezos in 1993, a year before he founded Amazon in his garage, the world’s fourth wealthiest woman.
She received a 4% stake in the online shopping behemoth, equating to a $38 billion payout. The author promised to immediately give away at least half of it, claiming she had “a disproportionate amount of money to share.” Bezos retained ownership of the Washington Post and his beloved space company Blue Origin. He is still the richest person on the planet.
Elon and Justine Musk, and Talulah Riley (twice).
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been divorced three times, twice from the same woman. Justine Musk, whom he met at university, has been dubbed a “starter wife.” The couple has five children (twins and triplets) and has been married for eight years. He then married and divorced actress Talulah Riley and then married and divorced her again.
Musk is now the world’s second richest man, with an estimated fortune of $170 billion.
Elon detailed his divorce payments to Justine in a blog post in response to an article Justine wrote about their marriage and split, including a $170,000 monthly legal bill, nanny salaries, $20,000 for clothing, and the family home in Bel Air. Riley received a settlement of $20 million from the entrepreneur.
Sue Ann Arnall and Harold Hamm
The divorce proceedings between Continental Resources (CLR) Chairman and CEO Harold Hamm and his wife, Sue Ann Arnall, began in 2012 and lasted three years—roughly one-eighth of their marriage. Finally, Hamm wrote her a check for $974.8 million after an Oklahoma district court ordered him to pay $1 billion in cash and assets. She deposited it in early 2015 after some hesitation.
She later sued for more, but the court denied her appeal because she had accepted the check; however, Hamm had already paid out $20 million during the case, so her total payout was nearly $1 billion.
Bill & Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates’ marriage appeared to be one of the strongest celebrity marriages ever, but it crumbled after 27 years. The couple had three children, a world-leading philanthropic foundation, and an estimated $130 billion in the bank when they announced their divorce in May 2020, stating that their marriage was “irretrievably broken.” They said, “We no longer believe we can grow as a couple together in this next phase of our lives.”
The world’s fourth richest man had no prenup. The couple’s $125 million compound overlooking Lake Washington, a private island in Belize, and $130 million art collection were all carved out behind closed doors.
The ex-couple put on a brave face for their daughter Jennifer’s wedding to Nayel Nassar in October 2021, and Bill has since revealed that he and Melinda have found “a good new working rhythm” as they continue to run their foundation together.
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian
Kimye is on its way to Splitsville after nearly seven years, several social media meltdowns, and one presidential campaign. The couple has already agreed to share custody of their four children, North, 7; Saint, 5; Chicago, 3; and Psalm, who will turn two next month.
Both are newly minted billionaires, so everyone will be watching to see how they divide their enormous fortune. Kim, 40, hired “disso queen” divorce attorney Laura Wasser to oversee the division of the couple’s Calabasas mansion, Miami condo, and Wyoming ranch. The couple is also thought to own $5 million in art, $4 million in vehicles, $3.2 million in jewelry, and $300,000 in livestock. Neither has asked for spousal support last we checked.