Two days after his 27-year-old marriage to Melinda French was officially termed over, billionaire Bill Gates made his first public appearance. In an interview on CNN, Gates spoke to Anderson Cooper about his divorce, his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, Microsoft’s alleged toxic workplace culture, and the surge in the Delta variant of Covid-19.
At the onset of the interview, Gates responded to Cooper inquiring about his state of mind after the divorce was finalised on Monday. The 65-year-old billionaire called it “a very sad milestone.”
“Melinda’s a great person, and that partnership that we had coming to an end is a source of great personal sadness,” Gates said.
When asked by Cooper how the couple’s interpersonal dynamic would affect the Gates Foundation’s future, the Microsoft founder said that they would “try and continue.”
“We are communicating and working at the foundation so that partnership we’re going to try and continue. The two of us can go out and work with leaders and help build the organisation, so that would be definitely the best thing for the foundation,” he said.
In early July, the Gates Foundation – which has a net worth estimated at $130 billion – had announced that the former couple would enter a two-year trial period to see if they can continue to work together. If they opt not to continue, Melinda will resign as co-chair of the foundation, leaving Gates with full control.
Bill & Melinda Gates: From Philanthropic Work To Cocktail Parties, They Always Came As A Pa…
Two Is A Team
From muddy streets in South Africa’s townships to cocktail parties at Davos — Bill and Melinda Gates came as a pair.
Together, they built a charitable empire through Bill’s technology company Microsoft and the massive non-profit they co-founded and co-chair, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
And when it came time to announce Monday the end of their 27-year marriage, they did that as a pair too in a joint statement posted to their respective Twitter accounts at exactly the same moment.
Reflection Of Each Other
Gates, 65, summed it up like this in a 2019 Netflix documentary series: “In the case of Melinda, it is truly an equal partner.”
“She’s a lot like me in that she is optimistic and she is interested in science. She is better with people than I am. She’s a tiny bit less hard core about knowing, you know, immunology, than I am.” Born October 28, 1955, William H. Gates grew up in Seattle and fell in love with machines and computer programming as a geeky-looking 13-year-old. He left Harvard University after two years to start “Micro-soft,” a software company, with a childhood friend.
On the other side of the country, Melinda Gates was born Melinda French on August 15, 1964 in Dallas, Texas. The first computer she ever used was an Apple II, and she developed an interest in computer games and programming at school.
How They Met
The couple met in 1987, shortly after Melinda started working at Microsoft as a product manager, her first job after graduating from Duke University.
The pair ended up sitting next to each other at a business dinner and hit it off. Melinda, now 56, described her future husband in the Netflix documentary as “funny and very high-energy.” But Bill didn’t ask her out until a few months later, when they bumped into each other in the Microsoft parking lot. He asked her on a date — in two weeks.
Melinda teased him for not being “spontaneous enough” and told him to call her closer to the date. A few hours later, he called her at home and asked her out for that night.
Pros & Cons
They married in 1994 and had three children. Before he popped the question, Melinda says she caught Bill weighing the decision by writing out the pros and cons of marriage on a white board.
The couple would go on to revolutionize the technology world: Bill through Microsoft software, Melinda through helping carve out space for women in the male-dominated industry. They launched the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.
Their foundation is among the world’s richest, having provided more than $54 billion in grants over two decades in areas including malaria and infectious disease control, agricultural research, basic health care and sanitation, in various parts of the world.
Split. Now What?
The couple’s divorce could create new questions about their wealth, most of which has yet to be donated to their foundation. Bill transitioned away from Microsoft in 2006 to focus more on philanthropy.
In 2010, he and Melinda, along with Warren Buffett, created the Giving Pledge, which encourages billionaires to give the majority of their wealth to charity. Initially, Bill wrote the foundation’s annual newsletter, but Melinda asked to co-author it in 2013. Although they argued about the idea — to the point that Melinda said in her 2019 memoir she thought their marriage would end because of it — they ultimately compromised.
The 2013 letter included just a section by Melinda. They co-authored the letter the next year, but Bill wrote most of it. By 2015, it was a true joint venture.
“Melinda has incredible strengths that she brings that help the foundation be better. We’ve always enjoyed our work together,” Gates went on to add.
The CNN anchor also quizzed the tech titan about his friendship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and Melinda’s concerns regarding her husband’s equation with him.
Gates said: “I had several dinners with him, hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health, through contacts that he had, might emerge. When it looked like that wasn’t a real thing, that relationship ended. But it was a huge mistake to spend time with him, to give him the credibility of being there.”
He added, “You know, there were lots of others in that same situation, but I made a mistake.”
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