“From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” These were words from Bill Gates’ mother to Melinda French Gates before she and Bill married. Her words foretold the enormous payout Gates would have to make in their divorce. The Gates divorce is just one of the most expensive divorces that offer important lessons for anyone considering marital dissolution. Find out what these six expensive divorces reveal.
1. Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren
Golf superstar Woods was married to model Nordegren for six years when Nordegren divorced him over his admitted infidelity. The revelations came after Woods’s spectacular middle-of-the-night car crash before which Nordegren smashed the windshield of his car with a golf club. Nordegren received an estimated $100 million in their settlement. The biggest takeaway from their divorce is that infidelity can be expensive.
2. Rupert Murdoch and Anna Mann
News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch and wife Anna Mann Murdoch divorced in 1999 after a lengthy marriage that began in 1967. The divorce happened mere weeks before Murdoch married his third wife, Wendi Deng. Murdoch later divorced her, marrying Jerry Hall, whom he has also divorced.
Mann walked away with a settlement estimated at $100 million, plus homes and possibly $214 million in stock. The biggest lesson from Murdoch’s marital history is that if you aren’t monogamous, it may not make sense to get married and place your fortune at risk.
3. Frank McCourt and Jamie McCourt
Frank McCourt, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his wife, Jamie, divorced in 2011. She received a reported $131 million in the divorce and kept an additional $50 million in property. She felt that payment was insufficient and several years later returned to court, seeking to obtain an additional $770 million. The court did not rule in her favor and instead ordered her to pay Frank $1.9 million for his legal costs.
The important lesson here is that you could be ordered to pay your spouse's legal fees if you do not have a valid case.
4. Steven Wynn and Elaine Wynn
Casino magnates Steve and Elaine Wynn didn’t just get divorced in 1986. They remarried and divorced a second time in 2011. Although their divorce was amicable, Elaine’s settlement took half the stock in Wynn Resorts, valued at $995 million at the date of divorce.
The clear lesson from this expensive divorce is that if your marriage doesn’t work the first time, getting married a second time is unlikely to lead to success and, in fact, may lead to a costly property settlement.
5. Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates
When Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates announced their divorce in 2021, speculation was rampant about how much money the wife of the Microsoft founder would be granted. The terms of their divorce remain private, but it has been reported that French Gates received stock valued at $2.4 billion on the day the divorce was announced. She later reportedly received an additional $3.3 billion in more stock.
The biggest lesson to be gleaned from the Gates divorce is that prenuptial agreements are necessary. At the time the couple married, Gates was already an incredibly wealthy man, yet the couple did not execute a prenuptial agreement. Advance planning could have saved Gates billions of dollars.
6. Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott
Another high-tech couple tops the list of most expensive divorces. Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott married before Bezos founded Amazon.com and rocketed to his spot as the wealthiest person in history. Scott reportedly helped Bezos build his empire and is estimated to have been awarded four percent of Amazon, worth $38 billion. Scott became the third wealthiest woman in the world with this settlement.
The takeaway from their divorce is that if you suddenly accumulate significant wealth during the marriage, a postnuptial agreement can save you millions, or perhaps billions, should you later divorce. The couple did not execute such a document, placing all of the assets acquired during the marriage on the table during the divorce.