When Bill and Melinda Gates announced last week they were ending their marriage, they didn't offer a reason for the split. But per a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Melinda Gates had met with attorneys from multiple law firms and started ending their "irretrievably broken" union in 2019, with sources noting the move was partly due to her husband's relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. A slew of calls between Melinda Gates and legal advisers took place in October of that year, after the New York Times published a story on her husband's dealings with Epstein. The latter had already been convicted of sex crimes by the time he first started meeting with Bill Gates in 2011, and in September 2013, both Bill and Melinda Gates got together with Epstein in New York City, per the Daily Beast. Sources tell the outlet that meeting was "a turning point," with Melinda Gates relaying to her husband how uncomfortable Epstein made her and that she didn't want any part of being around him.
One source notes it wasn't surprising Melinda Gates was so put off by Epstein, as he was an "obnoxious guy" who made many people feel ill at ease, even without the sexual crimes hanging over his head. Despite her reservations, however, Bill and other Gates Foundation staff continued to meet with Epstein, per a WSJ source. When asked by the paper to comment, a rep for Bill Gates said the tech mogul stands by his 2019 remarks to the WSJ, in which he said of Epstein: "I met him. I didn't have any business relationship or friendship with him." Meanwhile, the New York Times notes that even though the couple's personal split came as a shock to the public, the two had already been living in "separate worlds" when it came to their philanthropic efforts, with both concentrating on their own interests via "independent channels." "Institutionally, the foundation had already absorbed the separation," says an Urban Institute philanthropy expert. (Read more Bill and Melinda Gates stories.)