What You Never Knew About Bill And Melinda Gates

Many were surprised when Bill and Melinda Gates announced their intention to divorce after 27 years of marriage. For some, just the thought of the two splitting up at that point was confusing and unthinkable, a reality that was compounded by the fact that both Bill and Melinda have spent much of their marriage heavily invested in their shared philanthropic organization, The Gates Foundation.

But divorce they did, issuing a statement in May 2021 addressing the split head-on. As they wrote, despite the end of their marriage, they have accomplished a lot together. They shared on Twitter, "Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives."

In the time that has followed, Bill has described 2021 as the "most unusual and difficult year of my life" (via People) and Melinda has detailed the experience of feeling excruciating emotional pain, both while married and after the divorce. Despite the fact that the two are some of the most famous people in the world, there's still a lot many of us don't know about them. Here's a little insight into Bill and Melinda Gates, pre- and post-divorce.

Bill Gates' relationship with Jeffrey Epstein contributed to their divorce

Many were surprised when Bill and Melinda Gates announced their intention to divorce in 2022, and many more were surprised and super curious about what could have driven the couple of over 20 years apart. It turns out that part of the reason Melinda began exploring her options was because Bill had a relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, who died in 2019 while waiting for his sex trafficking trial to begin. 

While speaking to CBS Mornings, Melinda clarified that Bill knew exactly how she felt about his acquaintance. She explained that while a lot contributed to their split, "It's not one thing, it was many things. But I did not like that he'd had meetings with Jeffrey Epstein. I made that clear to him." Melinda also shared that she met with Epstein exactly one time, and wished that she hadn't. As she put it, "He was abhorrent. He was evil personified. I had nightmares about it afterwards. ... It was awful, and he was awful."

Bill has since said that his relationship with Epstein wasn't that important, and Melinda has noted that ultimately, the relationship her ex-husband did or didn't have with Epstein is something only he can truly explain.

The first date Bill and Melinda Gates went on was spontaneous

While speaking to NPR in 2013, Melinda Gates offered details about her first date with Bill Gates. As many people who follow the couple know, Bill asked Melinda out for the first time while they were in a parking lot. But instead of asking her out for the coming weekend, Bill got really specific. As she put it, "The first time he asked me out, he said, 'Could you go out two weeks from this coming Saturday night?'" After telling him that his question wasn't exactly spontaneous, Melinda asked Bill to call her closer to the actual day he wanted to go out.

Bill took her up on the challenge, deciding to call her again late that night and invite her over right away. Melinda was much more into this energy, but it turned out that Bill was still, well, Bill Gates. As she put it, he immediately followed up the ask by telling her that he had a meeting with a user group the same night, so they would have to connect after that. She explained, "I'm like, a user group thing, what is that?" (via NPR).

Bill Gates weighed getting married on his whiteboard

Since he was the head of one of the world's biggest tech companies, it's probably not too surprising to learn that Bill Gates is a pretty technical guy himself. In fact, when he was debating proposing to Melinda Gates, he made an usual move and listed the pros and cons of getting married on his bedroom whiteboard. 

As the story goes, the pair had been dating for a year when they realized it was time to move one way or the other. As Bill told the producers of the Netflix documentary, "Inside Bill's Brain," at that point, "... there were only two possibilities: either, we were going to break up or we were going to get married." So, he decided to explore the options before them the best way he knew how: by writing it out for himself (via NBC).

In the documentary, Melinda explains that she knew Bill was deciding what he wanted to do, but she was still amused when she walked into his bedroom and saw the pros and cons so clearly spelled out. While some might not exactly love the story for themselves, Bill says in the documentary that he wanted to make sure the decision was the right one because, "I took the idea of marriage very seriously" (via NBC).

Bill and Melinda Gates shared an equal marriage in a lot of ways

Though their marriage didn't work out for the rest of their lives, both Bill and Melinda Gates appear to have put a lot of work into trying to make the relationship as equal as it could be. Of course, that wasn't how things were at first. Business Insider shared that Melinda wrote in her book about the loneliness she felt while pregnant with the pair's first child. Bill was often traveling for work, and that meant a lot of household responsibility fell on her.

Melinda told the publication that one way the two evened things out was by sharing one major household chore: doing the dishes together after dinner. They started this habit after Melinda experienced a moment of frustration following a family meal. As she explains, "So one night we stood up after dinner and people in the family started to melt away, like, off they go upstairs. So hand on my hips, I'm, like, 'Nobody leaves the kitchen until I leave the kitchen!'" (via Business Insider).

The meltdown worked, and her family all stayed behind to help her clean up. From then on, she and Bill would do the dishes together, dividing up the role evenly.

Bill Gates had an affair in 2000

Unfortunately, the marriage between Bill and Melinda Gates wasn't always perfect — even decades ago. Once the pair announced their intention to divorce, quite a few stories came out about how each of them behaved while they were together. Some of those stories in particular were focused on rumors, and ultimately confirmations, that Bill engaged in at least one serious affair outside of the marriage.

The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2019, an engineer at Microsoft wrote a letter admitting to the affair, which took place in 2000. The woman wanted changes to happen in terms of her role at the company, and also wanted Melinda to read the letter she wrote. While it was never revealed if either action took place, the company did launch its own investigation into her allegations, and Bill eventually stepped down.

The New York Post subsequently published a piece in which it claimed Bill sought out extra-marital relationships with several women at Microsoft. Some of the advances Bill made toward the women were reported by the New York Times, and six people who worked for Microsoft confirmed the stories to the publication. 

Bill Gates took an annual vacation with his ex-girlfriend

In 1997, Time Magazine revealed that Bill and Melinda Gates had what some might believe is an unusual arrangement for two married people: Once a year, Bill could take a long weekend with his ex-girlfriend at her beach house in North Carolina. 

Bill and Ann Winblad had a relationship in the 1980s, well before he met and married Melinda in 1994. As Business Insider notes, though the two broke up in 1987, they were still good friends, and Bill even called Winblad to make sure she was okay with his marriage to Melinda before he proposed. As Winblad told Time, "I said she'd be a good match for him because she had intellectual stamina." Winblad also shed a little light on what the two spoke about on their weekends, noting, "We marvel about how, as two young overachievers, we began a great adventure on the fringes of a little-known industry and it landed us at the center of an amazing universe."

What's still unknown is what exactly the pair did on their weekends together, and how long the arrangement lasted. The Sun noted that Winblad married her husband, Alex Kline, in 2015.

Bill and Melinda Gates were named Persons of the Year by Time

In 2005, Bill and Melinda Gates joined U2 frontman Bono as they were all named Person of the Year by Time Magazine. The pair were seemingly thrilled with the impressive nod toward their philanthropic efforts, and released a statement on their site that affirmed as much. As they shared, "We're grateful that Time recognizes the importance of the world's inequities, whether they are in the United States or thousands of miles away. We are also pleased by Time's recognition that we can solve these problems and that many people must play a part in doing so" (via the Gates Foundation).

The magazine described the trio as "The Good Samaritans," explaining that while the three might not have been the most obvious choices for the title, it actually makes a lot of sense. As the publication put it, the three have spent much of their careers trying to combat world poverty and disease; the Gates were known at the time for their quest to invent a vaccine that doesn't require needles or refrigeration, and Bono had spent considerable time convincing the world's major powers to forgive tens of millions of dollars in debt held by smaller nations (via Time Magazine).

Bill and Melinda Gates once had a big fight about a letter

The marriage between Bill and Melinda Gates was clearly not without its problems, and the two definitely had arguments like most other couples. Of course, some of their arguments were pretty specific and unique; as Melinda once wrote in the book she published in 2019, one fight began over the pair's company annual letter.

As the story goes, Bill was usually the one who wrote the letter, and in 2013 Melinda asked if she could co-author it. To her surprise, Bill refused, with Melinda explaining, "Bill said the process we had for the Annual Letter had been working well for the foundation for years, and he didn't see why it should change" (via Reuters). In the end, she wrote her own letter about contraceptive use around the world. Eventually, after two years, both Melinda and Bill were the signatories on the year's letter. As Melinda put it in her book, "He's had to learn how to be an equal, and I've had to learn how to step up and be an equal." 

Melinda Gates began meeting with divorce lawyers in 2019

Though Bill and Melinda Gates didn't announce their plans to divorce until 2021, it turns out that Melinda was already laying out the groundwork when she met with lawyers in 2019. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the information was revealed in the court documents submitted by both parties. The couple then worked out the terms of their divorce largely under the radar, using the COVID-19 pandemic as a shield as they hammered out what was likely a complicated arrangement for two of the most powerful and wealthy people in the world.

Even though the split came as a surprise to many, the New York Post notes that between 2019 and 2021 there were signs that all was not well. In addition to Melinda pursuing legal advice about leaving her husband, the twosome also backed out of the World Economic Forum, and Bill resigned from multiple boards. 

Melinda Gates does not describe them as friends

Melinda Gates began speaking about the details of the divorce in March 2022, opening up about the myriad of feelings she experienced and her own hopes in terms of future love and relationships. While speaking with Gayle King for CBS, Melinda was asked if she would describe her relationship with Bill Gates as one between two friends. After contemplating the question, she replied, "Friends is a different word for me ... that might come over time, but for me there's still healing that needs to happen" (via YouTube).

Melinda also opened up about her own feelings about the split, sharing that she often cried during her marriage, even falling to the floor unable to process how to get up and go on. As she put it, "I gave every single piece of myself to this marriage. I was committed to this marriage on the day we got engaged and until the day I got out of it." She added that despite societal pressure to blame women for the failure of their marriages, she is proud of herself and who she was each day. 

Bill and Melinda Gates will continue to run their foundation together

Despite their divorce and Melinda Gates' stated need for additional healing before she can call herself friends with her famous ex-husband Bill Gates, when it comes to their pair's shared foundation, they have been clear that they intend to continue to run it together. But as US News reports, the plan isn't completely set in stone; if after two years it's too difficult for the pair to move forward on projects together, Melinda will resign and Bill will buy out her role at the foundation. The pair are presently the only two people on the board of trustees, a move that could require review down the road.

As Melinda shared with CBS' Gayle King, she believed that the two could make focusing on their work a possibility. She explained, "We certainly have a working relationship and I would say we're friendly at this point."

Bill and Melinda Gates had a separation contract

While the divorce between Bill and Melinda Gates certainly had the potential to be devastating for both parties, it turns out they had a separation agreement put into place throughout the time they were married. As such, their enormous assets were divided in accordance with the agreement. The details of the contract have not been revealed in full, but People noted that at the time Melinda filed for divorce, court documents submitted indicated she declined spousal support completely.

Melinda's filing also triggered another action that could be part of their agreement: an automatic limit to financial actions they could each take until the divorce was resolved. This action restricted either party from getting rid of property or making changes that pertain to insurance policies unless ordered to do so by the court.

People also shared that it seems the pair's agreement had a clause for future debts, which they will be responsible for on their own. The two also agreed to continue to offer access to all mutually shared documents, such as those pertaining to taxes and legal records.