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Inside the Gates Divorce Fallout

Bill And Melinda Gates
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Gates Foundation, or simply The Foundation as it’s known in Seattle, is one of the world’s most venerated institutions, and for good reason. The $50 billion philanthropy, after all, has been at the vanguard of the global pandemic response, with a bank account exceeding the G.D.P. of half the world’s governments. It’s been a generally prestigious place to work, a visionary organization haloed by Bill and Melinda French Gates, who literally created the model for a whole generation of social entrepreneurs.

Recently, however, The Foundation has been dragged into the muck via a series of unpleasant news events: allegations of Bill Gates’ proximity to Jeffrey Epstein, and the surprising revelation of the namesake couple’s separation, which was accompanied by the sort of dishy blind-sourced stories—with leaks and counterleaks—that usually follow the conscious uncoupling of the ultra-wealthy. The dissolution of any multi-billionaire marriage is never an easy legal or social unwinding, but it has certainly been exacerbated in this case by speculation about the fate of the Gateses’ shared philanthropic heirloom. It’s rare that charities are thrust into the center of a tabloid maelstrom, but such is life when so many people around the world depend on one couple.