One name has repeatedly surfaced in the wake of the announcement that Bill and Melinda Gates are divorcing: Jeffrey Epstein.
Bill Gates’ dealings with Epstein, who died in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, haunted the billionaires’ marriage, according to reports this week from the Wall Street Journal and People. Melinda Gates was worried about Bill and Epstein’s relationship as far back as 2013, according to the Journal; Epstein was “a sore spot,” one source told People.
“That's a long time for issues to fester,” the source said.
While Epstein was a widely connected rich man who loved to flaunt how widely connected he was, his relationship with Gates was notable for one particular reason: The two met in 2011, years after Epstein was convicted for sex crimes and become a registered sex offender, the New York Times reported in 2019. And Gates reportedly struck up a relationship with him anyway.
“Bill Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognizes it was an error in judgment to do so,” a spokesperson for the Microsoft co-founder told the Times. “Gates recognizes that entertaining Epstein’s ideas related to philanthropy gave Epstein an undeserved platform that was at odds with Gates’s personal values and the values of his foundation.”
That’s not exactly how Gates described Epstein when they first met, though, according to the Times.
The pair met for the first time at Epstein’s palatial Manhattan residence, where Gates remained for several hours, the Times reported. Afterward, Gates reportedly emailed colleagues, “His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me.” (The spokesperson told the Times that this was a reference to Epstein’s “unique decor” and his habit of bringing in people to meet Gates.)
The two met multiple times afterwards, although Gates’ spokesperson wouldn’t say exactly how many times. In 2013, Gates flew on Epstein’s plane, infamously nicknamed the Lolita Express, even though Gates had a plane of his own. (Gates’ spokesperson said that Gates didn’t know Epstein owned the plane.)
The Gates Foundation also toyed with working with Epstein but dropped the idea, according to the Times. Gates did, however, donate $2 million to MIT’s media lab—a donation that Epstein facilitated, according to internal emails obtained by the New Yorker.
Then, in 2013, both Melinda and Bill Gates had a meeting with Epstein, the Daily Beast reported earlier this month. And Melinda was wildly uncomfortable.
Melinda was reportedly furious about Bill and Epstein’s relationship, sources told the Daily Beast. But Gates kept up his ties to Epstein anyway, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In a 2019 interview with the Wall Street Journal, months after Epstein’s death, Bill Gates denied that he’d ever been particularly close to the sex offender.
“I met him. I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him. I didn’t go to New Mexico or Florida or Palm Beach or any of that,” Gates said. “There were people around him who were saying, hey, if you want to raise money for global health and get more philanthropy, he knows a lot of rich people. Every meeting where I was with him were meetings with men. I was never at any parties or anything like that. He never donated any money to anything that I know about.”
The divorce between Bill and Melinda Gates, whose vast fortune is believed to hover around $124 billion, has reportedly been in the works for quite some time: Melinda Gates started consulting with divorce attorneys as far back as 2019, according to the Journal.