On Sunday, The New York Times published a report detailing billionaire Bill Gates's "questionable behaviour" in and outside the workplace, providing some possible insight into his sudden divorce from Melinda French Gates. From Gates's relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to a confirmed extramarital affair, it appears that Melinda may have had multiple reasons to end the couple's 27-year marriage. Despite this, both tweeted statements saying that parting ways was a mutual decision. "After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," read a joint statement on May 3.
But these new details of the billionaire's relationship with women — specifically women he employed — tell a different story. According to The Times, Melinda most recently grew upset with Gates' relationship with Epstein — a friendship that began in 2011. Both Epstein and Gates spent time together on multiple occasions, including taking flights on Epstein's private jet and attending parties, dinners, and meetings at Epstein's Manhattan townhouse, often in the company of "young and attractive women." When the two men's friendship became public in 2019, Melinda is said to have grown "unhappy" and, at that time, hired divorce lawyers to start the process of dividing the marital assets.
But the problems within the couple's marriage, allegedly as a result of Gates' behaviour, existed long before 2019. In 2000, Gates entered into an extramarital affair with a Microsoft employee. And on more than one occasion, Gates is said to have pursued inappropriate relationships with other employees and subordinates.
One such alleged incident occurred in 2006 when Gates attended a presentation by a woman Microsoft employee. Immediately following the presentation, Gates reportedly "emailed the woman to ask her out to dinner," according to The Times. "If it makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened," Gates is said to have included in the same email.
In a separate trip, which is said to have occurred a few years later, Gates stood behind another woman employee during a cocktail party and said, "I want to see you. Will you have dinner with me?" At least six current or former employees claim Gates made their work environment "uncomfortable."
In 2019, Microsoft's board of directors opened an investigation into Gates' 2000 affair, and a year later Gates stepped down from the board. "There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably," Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Gates, told The Times, which was included in the same report. "Gates's decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter."
The report also alleges that Melinda took issue with how Gates handled a 2018 sexual harassment allegation against his money manager, Michael Larson, of over 30 years. Larson was accused of sexually harassing a manager of a bike shop that Gates' venture capital firm, Rally Capital, had a vested interest in. After the alleged victim's attempts to handle the matter personally proved unsuccessful, she sent a letter to the Gateses, under the oversight of a lawyer, asking for help. Gates then supposedly moved to settle the matter "confidentially," and the woman signed a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for an undisclosed payment. Larson continued, and remains, at his job. Melinda reportedly "wasn't satisfied" with Gates' decision.
So far, a spokesperson for Bill Gates has denied any relationship beyond philanthropy with Epstein and also denied his alleged behaviour as the cause of couple's divorce.
"It is extremely disappointing that there have been so many untruths published about the cause, the circumstances, and the timeline of Bill Gates's divorce,” Arnold told The Times. "The rumours and speculation surrounding Gates's divorce are becoming increasingly absurd, and it's unfortunate that people who have little to no knowledge of the situation are being characterized as 'sources.'"
Meanwhile, Melinda has refrained from speaking publicly about the circumstances of her divorce since tweeting their joint statement. In court documents filed in Seattle, Melinda's reason for divorce was that the marriage is "irretrievably broken."