Melinda Gates met with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein alongside her husband Bill in New York City and soon after said she was furious at the relationship between the two men, according to people familiar with the situation.
The previously unreported meeting occurred at Epstein’s Upper East Side Mansion in September 2013, on the same day the couple accepted the Lasker Bloomberg Public Service Award at the Pierre Hotel and were photographed alongside then-mayor Mike Bloomberg.
The meeting would prove a turning point for Gates’ relationship with Epstein, the people familiar with the matter say, as Melinda told friends after the encounter how uncomfortable she was in the company of the wealthy sex offender and how she wanted nothing to do with him.
Gates’ friendship with Epstein—who for years was accused of molesting scores of underage girls—still haunts Melinda, according to friends of the couple who spoke to The Daily Beast this week in light of the pair’s divorce announcement, which had been weeks in the making.
The Daily Beast has learned that financial and public relations specialists had been feverishly working on details of the pair’s split for weeks before the couple announced their divorce on Monday.
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the two said in a brief statement posted on Twitter. “We have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.”
A representative for Bill and Melinda Gates did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
The ties between Gates and Epstein ran much deeper than the tech mogul first admitted. As The New York Times reported, starting in 2011, Gates met with Epstein on numerous occasions. This was three years after Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage girl in Florida; by then, accusations that Epstein exploited girls and young women were widely reported in the press.
“If you ask Bill Gates, he’ll say, ‘Oh I had absolutely no idea he wasn’t up to anything of the highest moral character.’ But I seriously doubted Epstein’s moral character.”
As The Times reported, two people close to Gates acted as intermediaries between the two: Boris Nikolic, a biotech investor and former adviser to Gates who was mysteriously named a backup executor in Epstein’s last will and testament; and Melanie Walker, who worked at the Gates foundation and served as a science advisor to Epstein. A person close to Walker told The Daily Beast she did not attend nor help set up any meetings between Gates and Epstein. Nikolic did not return multiple requests for comment.
Soon after Epstein’s arrest in July 2019, Gates became one of many prominent people to face scrutiny over ties to the sex-trafficker.
The New York Times revealed Gates had met with Epstein at a 2011 get-together at Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse that included the financier’s ex-girlfriend Eva Andersson-Dubin and her daughter. (Virginia Giuffre, a survivor of Epstein’s sex ring, has accused Dubin’s hedge-funder husband, Glenn, of abuse—a charge he strenuously denies).
Indeed, the Times reported Gates visited Epstein multiple times from 2011 to 2013, and that Epstein had tried pitching a new charitable fund to JPMorgan honchos and to the Gates foundation. In 2013, Gates also took a ride on Epstein’s private jet (christened by tabloids as the Lolita Express), from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to Palm Beach, Florida, according to flight records reviewed by the Times. CNBC also reported that Gates rendezvoused with Epstein in New York in 2013.
When Gates first met Epstein, he was still Microsoft’s chairman and the second richest person in the world with a net worth of $56 billion.
“I met him. I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him,” Gates said in September 2019, as media coverage into his connections with Epstein were heating up. “I didn’t go to New Mexico or Florida or Palm Beach or any of that. There were people around him who were saying, ‘Hey, if you want to raise money for global health and get more philanthropy, he knows a lot of rich people.’
“Every meeting where I was with him were meetings with men. I was never at any parties or anything like that. He never donated any money to anything that I know about.”
One associate in the technology world who’s attended the same events as Epstein, including a TED conference in Monterey, California, was surprised Gates had considered cultivating philanthropic ties with the late peadophile.
“I can’t make the claim that so many are claiming,” the person told The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, referring to people in Epstein’s orbit who’ve said they had no suspicions of Epstein’s abuse. “If you ask Bill Gates, he’ll say, ‘Oh I had absolutely no idea he wasn’t up to anything of the highest moral character.’ But I seriously doubted Epstein’s moral character.”
“The people around him,” the person added, referring to Epstein, “had a varying spectrum of what they knew and what they didn’t know and how they rationalized it.”
This person wasn’t surprised that Melinda Gates was put off by Epstein, saying “a lot of people were uncomfortable with Epstein, completely independent of his” sexual misconduct. “He just was an obnoxious guy. He almost made a point of having bad manners, not paying attention at dinner… I could see how anybody, even without suspicions, would not want to be around him.”
Still, Epstein had a “superhuman” ability as a social climber, the one-time colleague of the financier said, adding that the photos displayed in Epstein’s mansion of former President Bill Clinton and the Pope were “really obnoxious, especially if you’re somebody like Melinda and hanging around with heads of state anyway. Then to have someone do this endless name-dropping…
“When he got up from the table at dinner, he wouldn’t just get up, he’d tell you he had a call with a president of some country.”
Epstein also reportedly had a habit of bragging that he was an unofficial adviser to Bill Gates—a claim the Microsoft founder’s representatives denied. One Times report indicates Epstein claimed to be a tax consultant for the tech magnate.
After his initial meeting with the financier, the billionaire philanthropist told Gates Foundation staff in an email: “His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me.” Asked about this message, Gates’ spokeswoman said he “was referring only to the unique decor” at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion and “Epstein’s habit of spontaneously bringing acquaintances in to meet Mr. Gates.”
The rapport between Gates and Epstein seems to have fizzled in the fall of 2014, sometime after Gates donated $2 million to MIT’s Media Lab. The lab’s former director Joi Ito, in an internal email unearthed by the New Yorker, claimed Epstein facilitated that donation. As the Times investigation noted: “Mr. Epstein complained to an acquaintance at the end of 2014 that Mr. Gates had stopped talking to him, according to a person familiar with the discussion.”
Gates wasn’t Epstein’s only link to Microsoft. Walker, a neurosurgeon who worked for the Gates’ foundation from late 2005 to 2013, had known Epstein since 1992. She told the Times that she’d just graduated from college and Epstein had offered to land her a modeling job at Victoria’s Secret because he was an adviser to Les Wexner, the founder of the lingerie chain’s parent company, L Brands.
Walker once stayed in an Epstein-owned apartment in Manhattan while traveling to New York, and in 1998, she became the financier’s science adviser. Within a few years, she moved to Seattle to be with her now husband, then-Microsoft executive Steven Sinofsky, and was hired by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. There she met Nikolic, the Times report adds, and introduced him to Epstein.
For his part, Nikolic told Bloomberg News he was “shocked” to be named as a “successor executor” in Epstein’s will, a position he quickly turned down. “I was not consulted in these matters and I have no intent to fulfill these duties, whatsoever,” he said in a statement released by his spokeswoman in August 2019.
Nikolic is a graduate of Harvard Medical School, where at least one faculty member received funding that was facilitated by Epstein. According to Bloomberg, Nikolic “waxed enthusiastic about Epstein’s financial advice in discussions with private bankers” in 2014, ahead of a public offering for a genome editing firm Nikolic had funded.
Little is known about Nikolic and Epstein’s relationship, though Bloomberg reported the biotech venture capitalist insisted they had no financial ties.
Meanwhile, Linda Stone, an ex-Microsoft VP, appears to have longer-standing ties to Epstein and vouched for him at MIT. “Ito was introduced to Epstein in February 2013 by Linda Stone, a former member of the Media Lab’s Advisory Council, at a TED Conference in Long Beach, California,” said one 2020 MIT report into Epstein’s largesse reviewed by The Daily Beast.
“He has a tainted past, but Linda assures me that he’s awesome,” Ito said in an email to three MIT staffers, according to the document. But, in June 2013, when a lab assistant raised questions about Epstein’s checkered past, Ito asked Stone for help in avoiding a potential backlash over Epstein’s donations to the MIT Media Lab. In an email cited in the MIT report, Stone advised Ito that Epstein had “given a tremendous amount of money to Harvard” and “other scientists” and it would be “good to show that list.”
“Focus on his funding of Harvard, scientists, over many years,” added Stone, whose tenure at Microsoft lasted from 1993 to 2002. She then mentioned Epstein “aggressively funds science & tech & interesting people.”
The report notes that Stone apparently believed Epstein when he “insisted to her that he was ‘wrongfully convicted,’ pointing both to his light sentence and his assertion that he had been cleared by a lie detector test as evidence that he was truly innocent of the charges.”
Epstein’s address book contained multiple phone numbers for Stone and listed Kelly Bovino—a former model who sources tell The Daily Beast was once part of Epstein’s inner circle—as Stone’s “emergency contact.” As The Daily Beast reported, Giuffre has publicly accused Bovino of aiding Epstein’s trafficking scheme.
The tech insider who spoke to The Daily Beast noted Stone thrived on connecting people but that she “has a lot of friends who are infinitely richer than Epstein.” They added: “I can’t see anything Linda got out of it.”
Epstein’s rolodex also had a variety of phone numbers for Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former chief technology officer. In July 2019, Vanity Fair reported the men were longtime friends, and that Epstein allegedly visited Myhrvold’s investment firm, Intellectual Ventures, with “young girls” who were possibly “Russian models” in tow.
In 2003, Vanity Fair named Myhrvold as one of the many businessmen to dine with Epstein at his Manhattan townhouse, and the 2019 article cites a source who claimed Myhrvold openly discussed visiting Epstein’s homes in Florida and New York.
A flight records database shows Myhrvold traveled on Epstein’s plane, in December 1996 and January 1997. Other passengers included Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and “GM,” believed to be Epstein’s alleged accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell.
When Giuffre sued Dershowitz for defamation in April 2019, her complaint alleged the famed lawyer attempted to throw Myhrvold under the bus. The document refers to Giuffre by her maiden name, Roberts. “In May 2015 Dershowitz requested confidential settlement negotiations with Ms. Roberts’ lawyers in which Dershowitz sought to convince Ms. Roberts lawyer that Ms. Roberts was mistaken, and that the person to whom Epstein had lent Ms. Roberts was Nathan Myhrvold, not Dershowitz.”
The lawsuit added that Giuffre “was, and is, clear that it was Dershowitz, not Myhrvold, with whom she had sex.”
Myhrvold’s spokesperson told Vanity Fair: “Nathan has no knowledge of or any involvement in the various crimes that Mr. Epstein is accused of committing.”
“He was never a client of his money management business, and he’s never done business with him of any sort,” the spokesperson added. “Back in the day Epstein was a regular at TED conferences and he was a large donor to basic scientific research, so while Nathan knew him and has socialized with him, that’s exactly where their association ends.”
Myhrvold did, however, take a trip to Russia with tech journalist and conference host Esther Dyson sometime in the 1990s, and spent time with Epstein there.
When reached by The Daily Beast, Dyson said that Epstein joined her and Myhrvold for a couple of days when their itineraries intersected in Sarov. The Microsoft executive had planned the meetup with the financier, she said.
One photo Dyson posted on social media of herself and Epstein is timestamped 1998. Another image of Myhrvold includes the caption: “at Microsoft Russia in Moscow, April 98. This was the beginning of a three-week trip during which Nathan and a variety of hangers-on (including a bodyguard) explored the state of post-Soviet science.”
Years later Dyson saw Epstein at Edge dinners and other events but says she didn’t have much interaction with him.
“I wasn’t his category so to speak,” Dyson told The Daily Beast. “He liked rich people and scientists and there were a lot of them at [Edge] dinners.”