Irreconcilable Billionaires

Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler:

“FILING FOR DIVORCE,” a family lawyer once told me, “is like pulling the thread from a seam . . . everything that was contained within falls out.” In the unraveling of the marriage of Bill and Melinda Gates, who announced their plan to divorce a few weeks ago, the noxious innards are now falling out. On May 16, more details emerged about nerdy and soon-to-be-single Mr. Gates’s friendship with the convicted and now dead sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The Daily Beast reports that a disgruntled Gates used Epstein’s Manhattan home as an escape from his “toxic” but then still intact marriage numerous times between 2011 and 2014. Epstein was for Gates the buddy who hears your complaints about married life and tells you to call it quits. For his part, Gates reportedly told Epstein to repair his own reputation—to put that 2008 guilty plea for solicitation of sex with a minor in the past. The fact that his bachelor buddy was involved—even then—in such nefarious acts appeared not to be a concern to Gates. By 2019, shortly after Epstein was found dead, Gates tried to explain away the relationship, telling the Wall Street Journal, “I met him. I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him.”

As sources presumably connected to Melinda are telling it now, it was Bill’s friendship with Epstein, added to his history of allegedly harassing female employees at Microsoft (he stepped down from the board after an investigation into such allegations), that prompted her to consider divorce. She is reported to have started conversations with lawyers about filing for divorce in 2019, although she was aware of Bill’s meetings with Epstein at least as far back as 2013.

With that knowledge, Melinda French Gates was in a difficult position. In the meantime, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation chugged along in the business of saving the world. The Annual Bill and Melinda Gates letters went out, signed as before by the two of them. Notably, the 2021 letter does not show the couple together but sitting at their own work-from-home stations, presumably still saving the world from home. There is Bill Gates the billionaire in a magenta sweater, staring deep into his screen as he considers the world’s thorny problems, with little time to sort out the couple’s irreconcilable differences.

More here.