Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google and sixth richest person in the world, filed for divorce from his wife of three years ago, making him the third mega-billionaire to do so in as many years.
Brin filed a petition to dissolve his marriage to Nicole Shanahan this month, citing “irreconcilable differences,” according to court documents. The couple, who have a three-year-old son, have taken steps to keep the details of the split secret, asking for the documents to be sealed by the court.
“Due to the high-profile nature of their relationship, it is likely that there is significant public interest in their dissolution case and any potential child custody issues,” according to the filing in Santa Clara, Calif.
Brin, 48, has a fortune of $94 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, coming largely from his holdings in Google, the company he co-founded with Larry Page in 1998, which later formed the holding company Alphabet Inc. He and Page left Alphabet in 2019, although they remain on the board and are still the majority shareholders.
Brin’s prior marriage to 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki ended in divorce in 2015.
Her 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 fortune of $145 billion to share, while Bezos and Scott had $137 billion at stake when they went their separate ways.
It’s likely Brin and Shanahan had a prenuptial agreement since the relationship began long after he became a billionaire, said Monica Mazzei, a partner at Sideman & Bancroft LLP in San Francisco. But because the case is being handled 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 created the Bia-Echo Foundation, which focuses on “longevity and equality, criminal justice reform, and a healthy, livable planet,” according to its website. The foundation reported $16.7 million in assets and awarded $7.4 million in grants, according to its 2019 tax return, the most recent available.
Mazzei said divorce settlements often include support for a former spouse’s philanthropy because it’s mutually beneficial: the settlor gets tax relief and the beneficiary gets agency on their charitable donations. Brin was the sole contributor to the foundation, according to tax form, with a donation that year of more than $23 million.
A representative for the Bia-Echo Foundation did not return a call seeking comment.
Scott has become the world’s most prolific philanthropist since her split from Bezos, donating billions of dollars to a wide range of causes through the 4% stake in Amazon.com Inc. she ended up with in 2019.
After the Gates’ divorce, their attention also turned to philanthropy. Unlike Scott and Bezos, the former couple had already made a name for themselves as mega-donors with their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and there were questions about how the $50 billion charitable engine would be affected. .
French Gates has since turned to her own philanthropic investment firm Pivotal Ventures, which was launched in 2015 with the goal of implementing “innovative solutions to issues affecting American women and families.”