Nicole Shanahan, The Woman in the Musk Brain Rift Center

sSilicon Valley philanthropist and philanthropist Nicole Shanahan emerged this weekend amid a feud between two of the world’s richest men, Sergey Brin and Elon Musk.

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

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Shanahan and Brin signed a prenuptial agreement and are currently negotiating the terms of their divorce, for which she is asking for more than $1 billion, according to the report. That could put her divorce settlement in the same league as billionaire Mackenzie Scott and Melinda Gates’ divorce settlement.

Now an attorney and Research Fellow at CodeX, Stanford Legal Information Center, Shanahan founded ClearAccessIP, a Palo Alto-based company that helps patent holders manage and invest their intellectual property rights. It was acquired by rival IPwe in 2020.


Sergey Brin and Nicole Shanahan arrive at the 2018 Breakthrough Award at NASA Ames Research Center on December 3, 2017 in Mountain View, California.

Mika Scafari / Getty Images

Shanahan, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, spoke of her mother who worked as a maid and was raised on public help. According to her LinkedIn profile, she graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, where she studied Economics, Asian Studies, and Mandarin Chinese. She earned her law degree from Santa Clara University, where she spent a long time as an exchange student at the National University of Singapore.

In 2019, Shanahan started her own foundation, Bia Echo, and pledged $100 million for reproductive longevity — access to medical technologies that help women conceive later in life — and criminal justice reform, among other causes. She is also a supporter of left-wing organizations and democratic political candidates.

“I want to make this clear and assure everyone that I am more committed than ever to dedicating my work in my life 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 progress out of this chapter, I’m very optimistic about how I might progress in this role.”

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