Bill Gates’s divorce and cheating is news again as more reports about him are emerging. Former employees are claiming they put up with inappropriate workplace behavior, romantic relationships with subordinates, and the demands of a boss who was painted as a nerdy tech savior.
Blue Screen of Death
There was a time before his charitable works when Bill Gates was seen as the embodiment of corporate evil – and not just because of the blue screen of death when Windows 95 crashed. Simply typing “Bill Gates” into Ask Jeeves or Netscape on your Macintosh or Gateway 2000 desktop computer returned results like “antichrist”.
People cheered during the Microsoft antitrust case after Bill Gates himself was cross examined by attorney David Boies. But since then, Gates has embarked on a 20-year public relations effort to frame himself as a good-guy geek deeply excited by new technologies and leading the effort to fix the ills of the world.
He’s given away billions to fight malaria, climate change, world hunger. He led the effort to warn of a potential global pandemic and then, when his vision became reality and COVID-19 obliterated the global economy and killed millions, there he was at the forefront of vaccine research efforts.
In the wake of his divorce, however, it has become increasingly clear that there is a duality to Bill Gates. The stories about him have been largely suppressed by nondisclosure agreements to keep more damning details under wraps, a former employee said. “For such a long time you were told, ‘You have an NDA. You can’t talk,’” said the former employee, who signed such an agreement.
The current wave of reporting around Gates’s behavior encouraged this person to open up, but they are keenly aware that Gates has lawyers at the ready. “And these are not nice lawyers,” they added.
Florida Divorce and Cheating
I have written about divorce and cheating before. Adultery can be the cause of a divorce, but can it impact the outcome? There is still a statutory basis for infidelity to be an issue in your divorce proceedings, but not in the way most people think.
Adultery may impact the division of property. Florida is an equitable distribution state, and it is presumed that property should be evenly divided. This presumption may be overcome by proof that one spouse intentionally wasted marital assets.
This waste is sometimes known as dissipation. Paying for expensive jewelry, foreign trips, rent, car payments, and dinners for girlfriends and boyfriends is considered wasting marital assets. The court has the power to reduce an adulterer’s equitable distribution to credit the marital estate for waste.
Florida law specifically provides that a court may consider the adultery of either spouse in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded. However, courts have struggled to reconcile the “fault” of adultery with the concept of “no fault” divorce. The result is a mix of weak opinions.
Chapter 61 discusses the “the moral fitness of the parents” as one of the factors the court considers in determining the best interests of a child.
So, if one parent can prove that the other parent’s adultery had, or is reasonably likely to have, an adverse impact on the child, the judge can consider adultery in evaluating what’s in the best interest of the child. However, it would be extremely unusual for an issue to be decided on those grounds.
Vanity Fair also reports that, like most tech company leaders, Gates was reported to be often impatient and demanding—behavior that was commonplace given the rapid speed of the industry. A former partner who worked directly with Gates at Microsoft explained that if a deadline was missed, the party responsible would answer directly to Gates.
The former employee who signed an NDA called him “unrelenting” and “condescending,” adding, “He would ask you a question, and when you answered, he’d look at you and go, ‘That is NOT the right answer.’”
For years there have been whispers about inappropriate extramarital relationships. None of it was entirely shocking, despite the seeming contrast with his public persona. Bill and Melinda’s relationship began as an office romance, with Bill as the boss and Melinda as the younger employee.
For the people who worked for him, Bill’s behavior was something of an open secret. The former employee who signed an NDA said there were times when Bill came into the office driving a Mercedes, and an hour later, one of his security personnel showed up with a golden brown Porsche that Bill drove away in.
“We all assumed that it was when he was with women. I knew there were many offsite meetings that were not on his calendar.”
Yet another source close to Bill disputed that he would disappear from the office, saying he was “one of the most intensely scheduled people on the planet.”
It’s not clear how much Melinda knew about her husband’s behavior or these rumors, or how much they factored into her decision to file for divorce. People close to the couple said there had been tension for some time, that they had been living separate lives for years, and that the decision to separate had been delayed until their youngest daughter graduated from high school.
The Times reported that in 2018, Melinda was unhappy with how Bill dealt with a sexual harassment claim against his longtime money manager, insisting on bringing in outside investigators. And then in 2019, when the relationship between her husband and Jeffrey Epstein became public knowledge, she hired divorce lawyers, setting a plan into motion.
The Vanity Fair article is here.