Bill and Melinda announced they were parting ways after 27 years of marriage. The Microsoft founder's ex-wife noted in the divorce filing that their relationship was "irretrievably broken." Rumors surrounding the divorce circulated. These speculations included reports of Bill's extramarital affair and his pursuit of office romances at Microsoft and their eponymous foundation.
But prior to the divorce, Gates already had a rather unsavory reputation. Back when he still helmed Microsoft, he was known for harshly berating his subordinates. Gates also purportedly tried to reduce co-founder Paul Allen's stake in the company while the latter was undergoing cancer treatment. The judge who presided over Microsoft's antitrust trial described Gates as having "a Napoleonic concept of himself and his company, [with] an arrogance that derives from power and unalloyed success."
A spokesperson for the Microsoft founder said the rumors and speculation surrounding Gates's divorce are becoming increasingly absurd. They added that the claim of mistreatment of employees is false.
With the turn of events, Gates realized that he ought to change people's perception of him – by using his wealth. He subsequently stepped down as Microsoft CEO and focused on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Their nonprofit gave away more than $50 billion to promote public health endeavors, including mass vaccination for children.
His moves paid off – turning public opinion initially against him toward his favor. Media outlets dropped their scrutiny of Gates: They instead offered him airtime to discuss his ideas. His 2015 TED Talk garnered tens of millions of views. A year after he gave the talk, former President Barack Obama awarded him and Melinda the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Bill projected an image of a nerd, tycoon and family man rolled into one. He was known to drive his kids to school, binge-watch Modern Family episodes, dress like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons and line up to buy his favorite cheeseburgers. But despite this unassuming image, the Microsoft founder possessed such clout that enabled him to sway the discourse on important issues.
However, skeptics have pointed out the contradictions in Bill's image following the divorce. They noted that if he sought an inappropriate relationship with female employees, it would be hypocritical for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fight for women's empowerment. Bill's purported connections with Jeffrey Epstein – who pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor – would likewise make him unsuitable to stand against child trafficking. (Related: A closer look at Bill Gates: promoting eugenics, friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.)
According to an Al Jazeera report, Melinda's concerns regarding the Bill Gates-Epstein connection dated as far back as 2013. Six years later, she started meeting with divorce lawyers – alongside Bill's connection with Epstein became public. (Related: 'Furious' Melinda Gates warned Bill over Jeffrey Epstein escapades: Report.)
Individuals familiar with the matter said Bill met with Epstein on "numerous occasions" starting in 2011 – after the latter's conviction. Melinda expressed her uneasiness with Epstein when the couple met him in 2013. But despite this, Bill and other Gates Foundation employees continued to have a relationship with Epstein.
An October 2019 report by the New York Times said Bill and Epstein met at least thrice in the latter's Manhattan residence. It added that one meeting involved the Microsoft founder "staying late into the night." Following the NYT report, Melinda held a number of calls with her advisers.
The spokesperson quickly came to Bill's defense: "Claims that [Bill] Gates had any personal conversations with Epstein in these meetings, which were about philanthropy, are simply not true."
In his foreword to current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's 2017 autobiography titled "Hit Refresh," Bill wrote about the importance of legacy. "When you hit refresh on your browser, some of what's on the page stays the same." Gates's point was that as much as Microsoft had reinvented itself since he stepped down, it still had elements from his time as CEO years ago.
The same could be said of Bill, as he retained the unsavory reputation that preceded his philanthropy. If anything, his different advocacies, such as depopulation disguised as mass vaccination and climate manipulation through the SCoPEx project, only revealed his true colors.