Sad Details About Melinda Gates' Life

If you know Bill Gates, you know Melinda Gates. The duo met while working at Microsoft in the '80s (he was her boss), quickly fell in love, married and started a family. From there, Bill became a billionaire and he and Melinda founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the most powerful philanthropic organizations in the world. Together, they did a lot of good, but things were tense behind the scenes. In 2021, after nearly three decades of marriage, Bill and Melinda divorced.

The name Melinda Gates is basically synonymous with success. After all, according to Bloomberg, she's worth over $11 billion. But long before she met Bill and became a super rich household name, Melinda was a kid who was interested in computer science. Per Fortune, it was of the utmost importance to Melinda's mom and dad, Ray and Elaine French, that she and her siblings get an education. Her father worked as an engineer, but on top of that? He ran some investment properties to generate some money to help "pay for all four children to go to college." She went on to get a bachelor's degree in computer science and economics from Duke University, and followed that up with an MBA.

Clearly, Melinda is no stranger to great achievement. However, that is not to say she has not faced hardships throughout the years. Here are the sad details of Melinda Gates' life. 

Melinda Gates prefers a more private life

Melinda Gates' middle class childhood didn't prepare her for life in the spotlight with her ex husband Bill Gates. Of course, as leader of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation she had to spend some time on camera networking, promoting the organization, and attracting donors. However, Melinda is famously private about her personal life — to the point that her family has refused to answer any questions about her when asked by reporters. "When you're brought to that level of celebrity, you don't know how to handle it," a senior tech reporter told the Seattle Times in 1995. "When you see her, she looks like the girl next door. She came across as being very approachable, very easygoing, very confident of herself." Regarding Melinda's desire to keep her personal life out of the public eye, a friend and former Microsoft employee said, "That was part of her agreement with Bill. That she stays private."

While Melinda's no stranger to life as a public figure, her personal life became frontline news like never before in 2021 when she and Bill filed for divorce. So, she took a (rather pricey) step to do what she could to fly under the radar to some degree. According to TMZ, Melinda planned ahead and "rented the entire island for $132,000 a night" where she and her children could "avoid the media once the announcement was made." Not a bad plan.

Melinda Gates had a 'crisis of self'

The axiom "Behind every great man is an even greater woman" likely holds true for Bill and Melinda Gates. While Bill is a wildly successful individual, his former better half spent years living in his shadow. According to Melinda's book "The Moment of Lift," the power dynamic between them began to shift when she put her career on pause to take care of their young kids, per the Daily Mail. Melinda described the change as causing a "crisis of self" after they had their first child. She wrote, "I was no longer the computer science business executive. I was a mom with a small child and a husband who was busy and travelling a lot ... That's where I was when I began the long climb toward an equal partnership."

Per The New York Times, Melinda "emerged from the shadow of her husband" thanks to her work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Helene Gayle, who formerly worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told outlet that while Bill "has the higher profile," Melinda's "engagement" was equal if not greater than his. "They see this as a partnership, and she's clearly a strong and equal partner," Gayle said. 

Even so, there were times when Melinda didn't feel this way. "[H]e hasn't always had an equal partner," she wrote in "The Moment of Lift." "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 'had nightmares' after meeting her ex's friend

In 2022, Melinda Gates took an unusual step (for her) and talked about her life on "CBS Mornings." During the interview, she opened up about her divorce, Bill Gates' infidelity, and dating again. Melinda also got into Bill's infamous friendship with Jeffery Epstein and how it contributed to the end of their marriage. Though she refused to answer any in-depth questions about the friendship and simply stated that Bill would have to defend himself, she did talk about the experience of meeting Epstein one-on-one.

Melinda claimed she was curious to meet the financier because Bill was doing so much business with him. "I wanted to see who this man was and I regretted it from the second I stepped in the door," she told Gayle King. "He was abhorrent. He was evil personified. I had nightmares about it afterwards. My heart breaks for these young women."

For his part, Bill has downplayed the relationship and told CNN the interactions were a "huge mistake." Whatever the truth, the link did not sit right with Melinda. She couldn't get over the relationship and began to quietly initiate divorce proceedings shortly after Epstein's 2019 arrest, per The New York Times.

Bill Gates cheated on Melinda Gates

Though Bill and Melinda Gates didn't officially divorce until 2021, their marriage was in hot water for some time. Back in 2000, Bill found himself in a world of trouble when he was caught having an affair with a Microsoft employee. The scandal was kept hush-hush for a while, though Melinda allegedly found out at some point. It wasn't until nearly 20 years later when the Microsoft board opened an investigation into his past behavior. Bill maintained everything was consensual but still agreed to step down from his position, per The New York Times.

Bill's indiscretions weren't limited to that one "amicable" affair, though. According to the report, his resume — while professional — is also dotted with marital indiscretions. He was known to pursue young women at both Microsoft and at the Gates Foundation, often asking them to dinner or to meet up after work. The women who spoke to the Times described Bill's actions as not exactly "predatory" but pretty uncomfortable nonetheless.

It's unclear exactly how much Melinda knew about Bill's workplace issues, but according to the Times, she was aware of some problems. After years of indiscretions the trust issues became overwhelming. As she said on "CBS Mornings," "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."

Melinda Gates' marriage wasn't easy

As Melinda Gates said on "CBS Mornings," it "wasn't one specific thing" that led to her divorce from Bill Gates. Rather, it was a finale that was years in the making. Bill allegedly felt the relationship had become "toxic," and even sought Jeffery Epstein's advice on how to end the marriage, per the Daily Beast. Apparently, things progressed to the point that they became strangers under the roof. "There were rumours in Seattle, going back four or five years, that they were each living in different wings of the mansion," a source told the Independent after news of the divorce broke.

While one might assume a couple as well off as Bill and Melinda would avoid divorce because they don't want to go through the process of divvying up their riches, experts say their immense wealth might've made the decision to call things off easier. "When people have loads of alternatives, including financially, they are going to find it easier to let go when the distance has grown too large," marriage researcher Scott Stanley told Time, noting that having more money at their disposal means "fewer constraints on staying together" when the going gets rough.

We may never know what goes on behind closed doors, but it does sound like Melinda is a lot happier now. "I'm in a really good place," she said during the aforementioned CBS interview. "And I'm really, really excited about my life and about the world [and the] work ahead."

Was there inheritance drama?

Speaking of money, it allegedly became a big issue for Melinda Gates while settling her divorce with Bill Gates. A little background: You may already know about Bill's famously modest plans for their kids. He's always claimed to want to raise his three children to be as normal as possible despite their parents' celebrity and wealth. (In 2018, the New York Post reported he bought daughter Jennifer Gates a $16 million horse property as a graduation present, but we digress.) Per HuffPost, in an effort to keep his kids "grounded," rumor has it that he intends to leave them $10 million each. To be clear, that's a ton of money to pretty much anyone, but when you compare it to Bill's $130 billion fortune? It's a fraction of a fraction of a fraction.

According to the grapevine, Bill's approach to their kids' inheritance was apparently a striking point for Melinda when settling the divorce. In May 2021, Page Six reported that she brought in trust lawyers as part of the legal team handling the split, and sources suspected she might be "angling to change her three children's inheritance." One source even claimed that the amount Bill reportedly wants to leave behind is "tantamount to disinheriting the children." Bill and Melinda finalized their divorce a few months later, but they kept mum about how the inheritance matters played out.

Melinda Gates' divorce got messy

We've already covered how Melinda Gates hates to be in the spotlight, so it feels safe to assume she hasn't been a huge fan of the headlines about the messy parts of her family life and her financial matters. On top of the reports that Bill Gates and Melinda fought over money and how much their kids should get, Melinda allegedly did her best to dig up as much dirt on Bill as she could before heading to court. Unnamed insiders claimed to Vanity Fair that prior to officially filing, Melinda worked with a private investigator to look into Bill's past and leverage as much power as she could in the impending settlement. A representative of Melinda's told Vanity Fair that this statement was "completely false."

Whatever was going on behind the scenes allegedly agitated Bill to the point that even distant colleagues took note. Following news of the divorce, Bill attended a networking event with other billionaires (casual) where he spoke candidly about the split. According to the New York Post, an attendee said Bill "fessed to messing up" and got "emotional" during a Q&A. "He might have been on the verge of tears."

Ultimately, the split wasn't easy for Melinda either, but she made the best of it. I started on this journey of healing, and I feel like I'm starting to get to the other side," she told Gayle King during her sit down with "CBS Mornings." "And I do feel like I'm turning a page in the chapter now."