Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google and the seventh richest person in the world, has filed for divorce from his wife for three years, making him the third mega billionaire to do so in as many years.
Brin this month filed a petition to dissolve his marriage to Nicole Shanahan, citing “irreconcilable differences,” according to court documents. The couple, who have a three-year-old son, took steps to keep the details of the split private and asked the court to seal documents.
“Due to the high profile nature of their relationship, there is likely to be a high level of public interest in their dissolution case and any child custody issues,” the filing said in Santa Clara, California.
Brin, 48, has a fortune of $94 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, largely from his stake in Google, the company he co-founded with Larry Page in 1998 and later became the holding company Alphabet Inc. founded. Both he and Page left Alphabet in 2019, although they remain on the board and are still the controlling shareholders.
Brin’s previous marriage to 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki ended in divorce in 2015.
His most recent split comes a year after Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates announced the dissolution of their marriage and about three years after Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott divorced. At the time, Gates and French Gates had a $145 billion fortune to split, while Bezos and Scott had $137 billion at stake when they broke up.
It’s likely that Brin and Shanahan are prenuptial, as the relationship started long after he became a billionaire, said Monica Mazzei, a partner at Sideman & Bancroft LLP in San Francisco. But because the case is being heard by a private judge, “we’ll never know the details” of the divorce, she said.
Philanthropy could also play a role in the divorce settlement, Mazzei said. Shanahan founded the Bia-Echo Foundation, which, according to its website, focuses on “longevity and equality, criminal justice reform, and a healthy and livable planet.” The foundation reported $16.7 million in assets and made $7.4 million in grants, according to its most recent 2019 tax return.
Mazzei said divorce agreements often include the support of an ex-spouse’s philanthropy because it benefits both parties: the giver gets a tax break and the beneficiary gets control over their charitable donations. Brin was the sole contributor to the foundation, according to the tax form, with a donation of more than $23 million that year.
A representative of the Bia-Echo Foundation did not call back to request comment.
Scott has become the world’s most prolific philanthropist since her split from Bezos, donating billions of dollars to a wide variety of causes thanks to its 4% stake in Amazon.com Inc. which she ended in 2019.
After Gatesen’s divorce, their focus is also on philanthropy. Unlike Scott and Bezos, the former couple had already made a name for themselves as mega backers with their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and there were questions about how the $50 billion charity engine would be affected.
French Gates has since drawn attention to her own philanthropic investment company Pivotal Ventures, which was founded in 2015 with a focus on implementing “innovative solutions to problems affecting American women and families.”