The world was shocked when news broke that billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates were calling time on their 27-year marriage.
With no prenup and a $130-billion (R185 trillion) fortune hanging in the balance, the stakes are high – and with endless money to burn, the Microsoft mogul can pick and choose his legal counsel.
But instead of an up-and-coming legal whizz-kid, Bill has opted for experience, choosing someone who’s decidedly no spring chicken: 97-year-old attorney Charlie T Munger. It’s a decision that’s raised eyebrows because Charlie doesn't even specialise in divorce. Instead, his focus is on business, philanthropy and real estate.
Here’s what we know about him:
· Charlie is an attorney-turned-investor from Omaha, Nebraska. Born in 1924, he acquired his legal stripes from Harvard Law School and later became a founder of California-based law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson.
· He’s known as the right-hand man of investor and business tycoon Warren Buffett, who’s a good friend of Bill’s. Charlie and Warren met at a dinner party back in 1959 and started investing together in the 1970s.
· During World War II, Charlie left the University of Michigan to become an army aviation meteorologist, tasked with providing pilots with weather briefings.
· He is the vice chairman of multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, of which Warren is CEO. It was through this company that Bill met Charlie. Bill was a board member there for 16 years.
· The philanthropist is known for donating large sums of money to universities. He has reportedly donated $110 million (R1,5 billion) to the University of Michigan, $65m (R910m) to the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California and 500 Berkshire Hathaway shares worth more than $40m (R600m) to Stanford University to build a graduate student housing complex in 2004.
· Charlie knows how expensive divorce can be. He’s been married twice and widowered once. His first marriage was to Nancy Huggins in 1945. When they divorced in 1953 he lost all his money. Three years later he married another Nancy – Nancy Barry Borthwick. She died in 2010.
· His net worth is estimated at just over $2bn (R28bn).
· Bill Gates has called him the "broadest thinker he has ever met", while Warren commented that Charlie "comes equipped for rationality. I would say that to try to typecast Charlie in terms of any other human that I can think of, no one would fit. He's got his own mould."
And what about Melinda? Her legal team includes Ivana Trump’s divorce lawyer, Robert Cohen.
He handled Ivana’s and Marla Maples’, both Donald Trump’s ex-wives, divorces and is a senior partner at the New York-based law firm Cohen Clair Lans Greifer Thorpe & Rottenstreich LLP.
In addition to Trump’s exes, he’s also represented other high-profile Americans like Sopranos actor James Gandolfini, comedian Chris Rock and actress Uma Thurman, and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s former sister-in-law Charlotte Sarkozy.
SOURCES: FORBES.COM, THESUN.CO.UK, ECONOMIST.COM, DAILYJOURNAL.COM, CONORNEILL.COM, BUSINESSINSIDER.CO.ZA, THELIST.COM