IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Bill Gates calls divorce 'a sad milestone,' friendship with Jeffrey Epstein a 'huge mistake'

In a wide-ranging interview on CNN, Gates also addressed a series of news reports that raised questions about his personal life.
Image: Bill Gates
Bill Gates at Microsoft's annual shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Wash., on Dec. 2, 2015.Ted S. Warren / AP file

Bill Gates on Wednesday night called his divorce from his wife of 27 years, Melinda French Gates, a "source of great personal sadness," and said his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was a "huge mistake."

Gates, 65, and French Gates, 56, who announced their split in May, were officially divorced Monday.

"It's a sad milestone," Gates told CNN's Anderson Cooper during a wide-ranging interview. "Melinda's a great person and that partnership that we had coming to an end is a source of great personal sadness."

Gates and French Gates have agreed to continue to run The Gates Foundation together. If after two years they decide they cannot continue in their roles, French Gates will resign her positions as co-chair and trustee. Gates would buy her out of the foundation and she would receive resources from him to do her own philanthropic work as part of the agreement.

Gates said French Gates remaining "would be definitely the best thing for the foundation."

"Melinda has incredible strengths that she brings that helped the foundation be better. We always enjoyed our work together," he said.

Following the announcement of the divorce, reports surfaced that Gates had had an affair and pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft and at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"I'm in a time of reflection. ... At this point I need to go forward," Gates said in response to a question about the reports. "You know, my work is very important to me, you know, but then the family will heal as best as we can and learn from what's happened."

Other reports following the divorce recounted that French Gates was uncomfortable with her husband's ties to Epstein — a friendship that was reported to have begun in 2011, three years after Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor.

"It was a huge mistake to spend time with him, to give him the credibility of, you know, being there," Gates said. “You know, there were lots of others in that same situation, but I made a mistake.”

He added that he had "several dinners" with Epstein, "hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy to global health through contacts that he had might emerge."

The relationship ended, Gates said, when the prospective funding "looked like that wasn't a real thing."