Melinda French Gates opens up about divorce from Bill Gates

Melinda French Gates opens up about divorce from Bill Gates

Melina French Gates has opened up about her divorce from her ex-husband, Bill Gates.

French Gates spoke candidly about announcing her divorce in 2021, after 27 years of marriage, during an interview with Time, published on June 18. Speaking to the publication, she reflected on her life at home during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, which was when she and Gates were separating.

She acknowledged how grateful she was to have a private breakup, as it happened when two of their three children - Jennifer, 28, Rory, 25, and Phoebe, 21 - were living with their parents full-time.

Melinda French Gates opens up about divorce from Bill Gates (AFP via Getty Images)
Melinda French Gates opens up about divorce from Bill Gates (AFP via Getty Images)

“It gave us the privacy to do what needed to be done in private,” she said about going through the split during the pandemic. “You know, I separated first before I made the full decision about a divorce. And to be able to do that in private while I’m still trying to take care of the kids, while still making certain decisions about how you’re going to disentangle your life - thank God.”

French Gates, 59, was also asked if she was concerned if the divorce would affect her and her husband’s private charitable organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In response, she acknowledged that her split was ultimately “more of a personal thing.” However, she noted that she still had both her organization and children on her mind at the time.

“I thought a lot about my three children,” she said. “But I certainly thought about the effect on the foundation. Those are the three biggest buckets: me, the kids, and the foundation. And I wanted to make sure that when we came through it to the other side - when I came through it on my side - all of those pieces were intact.”

French Gates, who announced her departure from the foundation last month, also spoke candidly about being in a good place now, despite how difficult her divorce was.

“Getting a divorce is a horrible thing. It’s just painful. It’s awful when you realize you need one,” she said, before correcting herself by clarifying that divorce is a “hard thing” instead of a “horrible thing.”

She was then asked how she felt now that the hard parts about her split are over, to which she responded: “It has been wonderful. I’ll just leave it there.”

The philanthropist continued to share how happy she is in her own space, noting that she lives close to a lot of her friends.

“I live in a neighborhood. Now I can walk to little stores. I can walk to the drugstore, I can walk to a restaurant,” she explained. “I absolutely love it.”

Last month, she revealed that she was exiting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after more than two decades to do her own charitable work for women and families.

“This is not a decision I came to lightly,” she wrote in a statement shared to X, formerly known as Twitter. “I am taking this step with full confidence the foundation is in strong shape. The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy.”

During her interview with Time, she once addressed why she decided to leave the foundation. “I was just ready to be able to have full decision-making control about where all the funds go,” she said. She also shared her belief that the foundation will continue, since the board – which includes her ex-husband and Mark Suzman, the CEO – “believes in women’s health.”

Gates and French Gates finalized their divorce in August 2021. Months later, during a wide-ranging interview with CBS Mornings, French Gates revealed how she ultimately decided to separate from Gates, who had previously admitted to infidelity during their marriage.

“I certainly believe in forgiveness, so I thought we had worked through some of that. It wasn’t one moment or one specific thing that happened,” she said during her TV interview in March 2022. “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.”

During the interview, Melinda also claimed that her ex-husband’s friendship with child sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein contributed to their divorce.

“I did not like that he had meetings with Jeffery Epstein. I made that clear to him. I also met Jeffrey Epstein exactly one time. I wanted to see who this man was and I regretted it from the second I stepped in the door,” she told Gayle King.