Melinda Gates first contacted divorce lawyers two years ago, after the scope of her husband Bill’s relationship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein was made public, it has been claimed.
Mr Gates met with the disgraced financier on multiple occasions, even posing for a photo at the New York townhouse where Epstein was accused of abusing young girls, and once stayed there “late into the night,” according to the New York Times.
While the 65-year-old has not been accused of any wrongdoing, his dealings with Epstein were a “source of concern” for his wife, 56, a former employee of the Gates Foundation told the Wall Street Journal.
In 2013, she even warned Mr Gates about his association with the convicted sex offender, according to the Daily Beast, but the pair are understood to have maintained contact for at least another year.
Last week, Mr and Mrs Gates announced their separation after 27 years, with court documents outlining that the marriage was “irretrievably broken.”
No reason was given for the split, but now, it has been revealed that it has been nearly two years in the making, with Mrs Gates contacting divorce lawyers in October 2019, just after the ties between her husband and Epstein were published by the New York Times.
Mr Gates first met Epstein in 2011, three years after the former hedge fund manager was convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor and sent to jail.
The pair held a series of meetings about establishing a charitable fund, but the plans never materialised.
An email seen by the New York Times, sent by Mr Gates to his colleagues said of Epstein: “His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me.”
Another email said: “A very attractive Swedish woman and her daughter dropped by and I ended up staying there quite late.”
The woman was Dr. Eva Andersson-Dubin, a former Miss Sweden whom Mr Epstein had once dated, and her 15-year-old daughter, the New York Times reported.
A spokesperson for Mr Gates told the paper he “was referring only to the unique décor of the Epstein residence and Epstein’s habit of spontaneously bringing acquaintances in to meet Mr Gates. It was in no way meant to convey a sense of interest or approval.”
Epstein died in prison in August 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges.
In an interview the following month, Mr Gates said: “I met him. I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Gates said in 2019: “Bill Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognises it was an error in judgment to do so.”
This week, she said she had nothing further to add.
The Microsoft founder and his philanthropist wife have started unravelling their $130 billion fortune.
Mr Gates transferred $1.8 billion worth of shares to her on the day they announced that they were divorcing.
Representatives for Mrs Gates did not comment on the Wall Street Journal’s claims that she met with divorce lawyers two years ago.