Bill Gates talks marriage, Jeffrey Epstein, Microsoft's alleged toxic workplace culture in interview

Business Insider US

Gates, as chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,attends a global health conference put on by the United Nations on September 25, 2008 in New York.
  • Bill Gates spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper Wednesday - his first public appearance since his divorce was finalised.
  • Gates opened up about his divorce, his past ties to Jeffrey Epstein, and Microsoft's alleged toxic workplace culture.
  • Gates and Melinda French Gates, officially divorced on Monday, ending their 27-year marriage.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

Bill Gates discussed his marriage to Melinda French Gates, his past relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, and Microsoft's alleged toxic workplace culture in his first public appearance since his divorce was finalized earlier this week.

Gates appeared in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday to discuss his work in the fight against Covid-19. But the billionaire philanthropist first responded to questions regarding his personal relationships.

On Monday, Gates and his former wife, Melinda French Gates, officially divorced, ending their 27-year marriage, which he called "a very sad milestone."

"Melinda's a great person, and that partnership that we had coming to an end is a source of great personal sadness," Gates told Cooper. "We are communicating and working at the foundation so that partnership we're going to try and continue."

The Gates Foundation announced in early July that the former couple would enter a two-year trial period to see if they can continue to work together. If they opt not to continue, Melinda Gates will resign as co-chair of the foundation, leaving Bill Gates with full stewardship.

"We always enjoyed our work together," Gates said Wednesday. "The two of us can go out and work with leaders and help build the organization, so that would be definitely the best thing for the foundation."

In the interview, Gates also addressed his former wife's concerns about his ties to the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, with whom he said he had "several dinners."

"I had several dinners with him, hoping what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health through contacts that he had might emerge," Gates said during the CNN interview. "When it looked like that wasn't a real thing, that relationship ended."

He added: "But it was a huge mistake to spend time with him, to give him the credibility. There were lots of others in the same situation, but I made a mistake."

The Microsoft co-founder was also asked about reports of several women who worked for his company and the Gates Foundation accusing him of creating an uncomfortable workplace environment.

In 2006, Gates allegedly asked a female Microsoft employee out to dinner, and said, "If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened," according to The New York Times. The Times also reported that Gates asked a woman who worked for the Gates Foundation to dinner at a cocktail party sometime between 2007 and 2008.

In late 2019, Microsoft board members opened an investigation into Gates after an employee said she had a sexual relationship with him for years. A representative for Gates acknowledged "there was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably."

Cooper also noted French Gates was reportedly unhappy with the way Gates handled a sexual harassment probe into his longtime wealth manager, Michael Larson - pushing for an independent investigation after Gates attempted to settle the case confidentially.

When asked by Cooper if he had regrets, Gates said: "Well, certainly I think everyone does, but it's a time of reflection, and at this point, I need to go forward."

"My work is very important to me," he continued. "Within the family, we'll heal as best we can and learn from what's happened."

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