Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
Bill Gates apparently had some bizarre taste in marriage counselors, because he liked to tell convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein that his marriage to Melinda Gates was “toxic,” the Daily Beast reported Sunday.
The two men met dozens of times between 2011 and 2014, according to the Daily Beast, citing anonymous sources. Gates reveled in the “men’s club” aura cultivated by Epstein, and found Epstein’s Manhattan lair to be “a respite from his marriage,” sources told the news outlet.
A spokesperson for Bill Gates denied these allegations to the Daily Beast.
“Your characterization of his meetings with Epstein and others about philanthropy is inaccurate, including who participated. Similarly, any claim that Gates spoke of his marriage or Melinda in a disparaging manner is false,” the spokesperson said. “Bill never received or solicited personal advice of any kind from Epstein—on marriage or anything else. Bill never complained about Melinda or his marriage to Epstein.”
The spokesperson also disputed just how many times Gates and Epstein had met. Gates has previously denied that he had a business relationship or friendship with Epstein, who regularly boasted of his tight ties to the rich and powerful.
The news that Bill and Melinda Gates would be ending their 27-year marriage has unleashed a torrent of reports that Epstein was a pervasive thorn in the billionaires’ relationship. Melinda Gates was reportedly uneasy with her husband’s ties to Epstein, who’d already been convicted of sex crimes by the time Gates met him in 2011. In 2013, a meeting between Epstein and the Gateses left Melinda deeply uncomfortable, the Daily Beast reported earlier this month.
A former staffer of the Gates Foundation told the Daily Beast that Bill Gates was likely hoping to network with some of Epstein’s associates.
“My understanding was he wasn’t hanging out with Epstein to get women,” the staffer told the news outlet.
Still, the bond between the two men remained a topic of conversation among employees even after they stopped hanging out, because some feared it could harm the Gateses’ reputation, according to the Daily Beast. That’s exactly what happened in 2019, when Epstein died of suicide while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges and Gates came under public scrutiny for his time with the mysterious financier.
That same year, Melinda Gates hired divorce lawyers, according to the New York Times.
But Epstein allegedly wasn’t the only issue in the couple’s relationship. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Bill Gates also made multiple overtures toward women—including a few who worked at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—that left them uncomfortable. (It’s unclear if Melinda knew about this, according to the Times. The pair originally met when Melinda worked for Bill at Microsoft.) Melinda Gates was also reportedly upset by how Bill Gates handled a sexual harassment claim against one of his associates.
“The claim of mistreatment of employees is also false,” a spokesperson told the Times. “The rumors and speculation surrounding Gates’ 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.’”
Both the Times and the Wall Street Journal also reported that Gates had once had a romantic relationship with a woman who worked at Microsoft. Gates had resigned from Microsoft’s board in 2020 during an internal investigation into that relationship.
“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” a spokesperson for Gates told the Times. “Gates’ decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter.”