Asked about his divorce, his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and the “pretty dramatic couple of years” that have recast his public persona, Bill Gates didn’t have much to say about the scandals that have surrounded him since 2020 during a lengthy interview published Sunday by The Times of London.
Speaking with Times journalist Alice Thompson, Gates contended the “weirdest part” of the past few years — which saw him separate from the Microsoft board and his wife of 27 years, Melinda French Gates — was becoming an empty-nester when his youngest child left for college.
“My wife’s graduated as well so I’m going to have lots of interesting dinners at the house,” Gates told Thompson, referring to Xanadu 2.0, Gates’ Medina estate on Lake Washington.
Gates and French Gates finalized their highly publicized divorce last August. In a statement after the announcement of their divorce, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of nearly $50 billion, said the two would remain co-chairs and trustees.
In 2020, board members at Microsoft determined it inappropriate for Gates to continue sitting on its board as they investigated the billionaire’s prior relationship with a female Microsoft employee that was deemed inappropriate, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The board began looking into the relationship after The New York Times reported on Gates’s long-running relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Speaking with The Times of London, Gates spoke at length on his work combating the COVID-19 pandemic. He declined to take questions on whether he had been unfaithful to French Gates and spoke only glancingly about Epstein.
“At the time, I didn’t realize that by having those meetings it would be seen as giving him credibility,” Gates told Thompson. “You’re almost saying, ‘I forgive that type of behavior,’ or something. So clearly the way it’s seen, I made a huge mistake not understanding that.”
Gates’ interview was published nearly two months after French Gates opened up about the divorce with “CBS Mornings” anchor Gayle King.
“I’m turning a page in the chapter now … I’m actually really excited about what’s to come in life ahead for me,” she said.
Speaking with King, French Gates described her current relationship with Gates as “friendly” but not quite friends. She said they both intend to continue a “working relationship” at the foundation. French Gates is also continuing her focus on Pivotal Ventures, which funds projects that empower women.
When King asked about his alleged infidelity, French Gates said it was not one incident or moment that led to their separation.
“Well, I certainly believe in forgiveness, so I thought we had worked through some of that,” she said. “It wasn’t one moment or one specific thing that happened. There just came a point in time where there was enough there that I realized it just wasn’t healthy, and I couldn’t trust what we had.”
Asked about her ex-husband’s ties with Epstein, French Gates said she met Epstein once to see “who he was.”
“I regretted it from the second I stepped in the door,” she said, describing Epstein as “abhorrent” and “evil personified.” She added that she made her feelings clear to Gates.
When King pressed for details on whether Gates had continued to meet with Epstein, French Gates said, “Any of the questions remaining about [Bill’s relationship with Epstein] are for Bill to answer.”
Gates, who previously acknowledged meeting Epstein, offered no new insights into their relationship to The Times of London. He described the financial side of the divorce as amicable, in part because of the tremendous amount of money involved.
“It was more about, OK, I’ll have x billion to give away, you’ll have y billion to give away,” Gates told The Times. “It was about the causes.”
French Gates, he said, did get their dog.
Microsoft Philanthropies underwrites some Seattle Times journalism projects.
Material from The Times of London, Seattle Times wire services and The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
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