Melinda Gates, Infinite Fertility, and J.D. Vance

JD Vance at the Allen and Co. Sun Valley conference
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Theodore Schleifer
July 14, 2021

One of the most rewarding parts of writing for this community is the feedback that I receive from readers. I’ve been inundated with great questions over the past week, and I’ll be engaging with some of them here—in addition to a few observations of my own. 

You reported last week on unease within The Gates Foundation, in part due to a new governance structure that could send Melinda French Gates packing in two years if things get too tense. I know you aren’t Freud, a performance coach, or a divorce attorney, but what do you think actually happens?

I may eat these words, but I’m going to bet on the boring outcome and buy the Gates Foundation’s line that Melinda sticks around. I’ve got two reasons. The first is that everything happening in the public eye right now has to be read against the fact that, behind the scenes, Bill and Melinda’s attorneys are trying to hash out a divorce settlement that maximizes their client’s holdings. Make no mistake: The headlines that you read all shape the leverage that each side has in that negotiation. (Counterpoint: Did you catch Bill Gates at Sun Valley saying the divorce was “my fault”? Off-message, Bill!) And so while there’s obviously real tension between the Gateses, I predict the discord is worse now than it will be in two years, when the ink on the separation agreement almost certainly will be dry.