Bill and Melinda Gates command most respect

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The Independent US

Further proof that philanthropy is back in fashion has come in the form of a new poll which names Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, and his wife, Melinda, as the most respected partnership in the world. The couple topped the poll of 3,000 business leaders asked to name the world's most inspiring partnerships.

They swept the board in the business and charity categories with 38 per cent and 41 per cent of the votes respectively.

The husband and wife team, who have three young children, recently shifted their focus from the business world to "ultra-philanthropy" through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is worth more than £16bn.

The couple, who married in 1994 after meeting over canapés at a Microsoft press launch in 1987, oversee the handing out of billions of each year to good causes, including more than £400m to global health programmes, almost matching the annual budget of the UN's World Health Organisation.

In the sporting category, the British Olympic rowing champions Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent topped the poll. Redgrave was crowned a national hero in 2000 after becoming Britain's first sportsman to achieve five consecutive Olympic gold medals in an endurance sport. Pinsent has been his rowing partner since 1990, helping him to win three of his gold medals.

A rock'*'roll lifestyle was no bar to winning a place on the list, with Sir Mick Jagger and Keith Richards leading the way from the world of entertainment. They have enjoyed one the longest partnerships featured in the poll, selling more than 200 million albums since the Rolling Stones got together in 1962.

The survey, by the Leaders in London International Leadership Summit 2007, asked participants to name the most respected partnerships in the areas of business, politics, charity and social enterprise, sport and entertainment.

The reasons behind their choices included mutual support, innovation, equal contributions, decisions, risk-taking ability, connections and understanding of target audiences.

In the business category, the Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were second with 35 per cent, due to their "innovative partnership style".

The self-made retail giants Philip and Tina Green, the brains behind the fashion chain Topshop, came in third with 27 per cent because of an "uncanny understanding of their retail audience".

Bono and Bob Geldof, two of the world's best-known Africa fundraisers, came second in the charity and social enterprise category with 36 per cent, because of their close understanding of the audience.

The organisers of Glastonbury music festival, Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily, came third with 14 per cent, identifying their mutual support as the reason for their success.

In politics, former US president Bill Clinton and his wife, and current Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary were named the most respected couple with 38 per cent, followed by the former prime minister Baroness Thatcher and the former US president Ronald Reagan with 20 per cent. He was president for eight years of Lady Thatcher's 11 years at Downing Street. He called her "the best man in England". She referred to him as "the second most important man in my life".

Only one in 10 of those taking part in the survey voted for the much analysed relationship between Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair.

Redgrave and Pinsent were the most successful sporting partnership, followed by the golfers Tiger Woods and Steve Williams and the skaters Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean, Olympic gold medallists in 1984.

In the entertainment world, Jagger and Richards were followed by the Geordie comedy duo Ant and Dec, with David and Victoria Beckham in third place.

Business leaders identified three main reasons for failed partnerships – having different priorities and objectives, a lack of trust and not having complementary skills and attributes.

The world's top partnerships

* Business

1: Microsoft's Bill and Melinda Gates, 38 per cent.

2: Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page (35).

3: Topshop owners Sir Philip Green and wife Tina (27).

* Charity and Social Enterprise

1: Bill and Melinda Gates (41).

2: Bono and Bob Geldof (36).

3: Glastonbury father and daughter team Michael and Emily Eavis (14).

* Sport

1: Rowers Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent (34).

2: Golfer Tiger Woods and Steve Williams (23).

3: Ice skaters Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean (19).

* Entertainment

1. Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (27)

2. Television presenters Ant and Dec (25).

3. Celebrity couple David and Victoria Beckham (20).