Melinda Gates reportedly began exploring options for divorce from Bill Gates almost two years ago, around the time the world’s fourth-richest man was revealed to have met many times with Jeffrey Epstein, the philanthropist and sex offender who killed himself in jail in 2019.
The Microsoft founder and his wife, two of the world’s most powerful and influential philanthropists, announced their divorce last week. They have not said why.
On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal cited “people familiar with the matter” and a former employee of the Gates Foundation who said Bill Gates’s dealings with Epstein were “one source of concern” for his wife.
In October 2019, the New York Times reported that Epstein cultivated the acquaintance of rich and powerful men including the former president Bill Clinton.
But it said few “compared in prestige and power to the [then] world’s second-richest person, a brilliant and intensely private luminary: Bill Gates. And unlike many others, Mr Gates started the relationship after Mr Epstein was convicted of sex crimes.”
In 2008, Epstein reached a deal with authorities and was sentenced to 13 months confinement for soliciting prostitution from underage girls. The conditions of the deal were a source of controversy 11 years later, when Epstein was charged with sex trafficking. Found dead in a New York jail, he was deemed to have killed himself.
Earlier this week, the Daily Beast reported that Melinda Gates warned her husband about associating with Epstein in 2013. The Wall Street Journal cited a former employee of the Gates Foundation who said relationships between the two men and other Gates employees continued after that warning.
The Journal said court documents showed that Melinda Gates spoke with legal advisers a number of times around publication of the New York Times story in 2019.
A spokesman for Bill Gates told the Journal he stood by a statement about Epstein given to the paper that year: “I met him. I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him.”
Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce on Twitter last week.
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” they said. “We have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.”
The couple, who were married in 1994, have reportedly agreed to divide their assets. According to Forbes, Bill Gates is worth about $124bn. The couple have said they will give most of their money away.
Last week, Forbes said the fortune was being divided. Its headline: “Melinda French Gates Now A Billionaire After Stock Transfer From Bill Gates.”
Citing court documents, the Journal said that about two years before she filed for divorce, Melinda Gates said her marriage had been “irretrievably broken” for some time.
The paper said her legal team included Robert Stephan Cohen, a New York divorce lawyer who has represented Michael Bloomberg and Ivana Trump.