Nicole Shanahan, the Woman at the Center of the Musk-Brin Rift

Silicon Valley entrepreneur and philanthropist Nicole Shanahan emerged this weekend at the center of a rift between two of the world’s richest men, Sergey Brin and Elon Musk.

Shanahan and Brin have been married for over three years but announced in June they plan to divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences.” The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that Musk and Shanahan had an extramarital affair, an allegation that Musk has since denied.

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Shanahan signed a prenuptial contract with Brin and they are currently working out the terms of Shanahan’s divorce. According to the report she wants more than $1billion. It could mean that her settlement for divorce will be in the same category as the ones of Melinda Gates or MacKenzie Scott billionaire philanthropists.

Shanahan, who is now an attorney and research fellow at CodeX, Stanford Center for Legal Informatics (Stanford Center for Legal Informatics), founded ClearAccessIP. This Palo Alto-based company helps patent owners manage their intellectual property rights and monetize them. In 2020, rival IPwe acquired ClearAccessIP.

Sergey Brin, Nicole Shanahan and others arrive at NASA Ames Research Center’s 2018 Breakthrough Prize on December 3, 2017, in Mountain View (California).

Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

Shanahan, a daughter of Chinese immigrants has spoken out about her mother who was a maid and how she grew up with public assistance. Her LinkedIn profile shows that she attended the University of Puget Sound, Washington State. She studied Mandarin Chinese, Asian Studies, and economics. After earning her law degree from Santa Clara University she spent a time as an exchange student at National University of Singapore.

In 2019, Shanahan started her own foundation, Bia-Echo, and pledged $100 million to reproductive longevity—access to medical technologies that help women bear children later in life—and criminal justice reform, along with other issues. Her support for Democratic candidates and left-leaning organisations is another reason she supports her.

“I want to get the word out that and assure everyone that I am committed as ever to dedicating my life’s work to social justice, climate solutions and a thoughtful, caring democracy,” Shanahan said in an interview with Puck this month. “And I actually think that as I move forward out of this separation, I feel very optimistic in how I might grow in this role.”

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