After Bill and Melissa Gates announced their divorce last week, I came across at least a handful of news stories waxing existential about why the philanthropic super-couple had split. Some even situated the Gateses amid the larger “gray divorce” trend that is apparently underway, which describes the increase in older couples getting divorced.
It may be true that the Gateses grew to gradually inhabit “separate worlds,” as the New York Times suggested, but not all contributing factors are so subtle: According to the Wall Street Journal, Melinda Gates began meeting with divorce lawyers at least since 2019, around the time the public learned of Bill Gates’s association with Jeffrey Epstein.
Sources with knowledge of Melinda Gates’s consultations told the Wall Street Journal that her husband’s connection to Epstein was a source of concern, and had been for many years by that point. When she sought the help of divorce lawyers, she is said to have described her marriage as “irretrievably broken.”
Melinda and Bill reportedly convened at Epstein’s Upper East Side mansion in September 2013, after the two received an award for their public service. The Daily Beast called the meeting a “turning point for the Gates’ relationship with Epstein” since afterwards Melinda told her friends “how uncomfortable she was in the company of the wealthy sex offender and how she wanted nothing to do with him.” Friends of the Gateses told the outlet that Melinda was still haunted by Bill’s close ties to the convicted sex offender.
Of course publicly there is little to no explanation as to why the couple has decided to split after 27 years. “We ...will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives,” they wrote in a joint statement last week.