When Bill Gates and his wife Melinda announced their upcoming divorce last Monday, they had already been negotiating the split for more than a year. Bill Gates’ meetings with the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who mysteriously died in prison while facing sex-trafficking charges in 2019, feature prominently in the divorce, sources said.
In a joint statement posted on Twitter last week, the billionaire couple said, “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.” They did not give an indication as to what prompted the divorce.
Sources told The Wall Street Journal that Bill Gates’ dealings with Epstein feature in the divorce, however. A former employee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation told the Journal that Melinda Gates’s concerns about the relationship with Epstein trace back as far as 2013.
According to documents reviewed by the Journal, Melinda Gates and her advisers held a number of calls in October 2019 after The New York Times reported that her husband had met with Epstein on numerous occasions. The founder of Microsoft once stayed late into the night at Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse.
Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gates, told The Times that her boss and Epstein had met multiple times to discuss philanthropy. “Bill Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognizes it was an error in judgment to do so,” Arnold said at the time.
In September 2019, Bill Gates described his relationship with Epstein this way: “I met him. I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him.”
Melinda Gates had told her husband that she was uncomfortable with Epstein after the couple met him together in 2013, the former Gates Foundation employee told the Journal. The Daily Beast also reported this meeting and Melinda Gates’ concerns. Bill Gates and some foundation employees continued a relationship with Epstein despite Melinda’s concerns, the Journal source explained.
The Gates’ negotiated their divorce throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, documents show. The divorce filing shows that the couple has three children who are now all 18 years or older.
In early 2020, the Gateses announced they would not attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, after years of regular attendance. A few months later, Gates announced he was resigning from the boards of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway, in order to focus on his philanthropic efforts. At that time, the couple had already begun discussions to divide their vast wealth according to Journal sources.
The May 3 divorce filing shows that the Gateses had agreed to a separation contract to divide their assets, estimated at $130 billion. The two have pledged to give away most of their wealth. They have donated more than $36 billion to the Gates Foundation and have said they plan to remain co-chairs there after the divorce.