There have been biopics about Mark Zuckerberg (The Social Network) and a few about Steve Jobs, but it’s notable that Bill Gates has never really gotten the big biopic treatment. In fact, despite being the richest man in the world before Steve Jobs, the cinematic treatment of Gates is usually only in relation to Jobs, see e.g., Pirates of Silicon Valley, where Gates had to be played by … Anthony Michael Hall opposite Noah Wylie’s Jobs.
Aside from, you know, the fiercely monopolistic practices, Gates has usually been able to cultivate the image of a nerdy but fairly uninteresting person, at least in the ways that Hollywood finds interesting. As Petr has written, he was also able to successfully position himself as the most philanthropic guy on the planet, the ultimate good guy.
And then he and his wife, Melinda, filed for divorce.
To be clear, Gates is still not all that interesting a personality, except in that we’re learning that the world’s richest man for a span of 22 years is also 1) incredibly awkward with women, and 2) has asked out the wrong women on a few occasions.
To wit: Bill Gates has asked out several women from his office over the years. From the NYTimes:
In 2006, for example, he attended a presentation by a female Microsoft employee. Mr. Gates, who at the time was the company’s chairman, left the meeting and immediately emailed the woman to ask her out to dinner, according to two people familiar with the exchange.
“If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Mr. Gates wrote in an email, according to a person who read it to The New York Times.
The woman was indeed uncomfortable, the two people said. She decided to pretend it had never happened.
A year or two later, Mr. Gates was on a trip to New York on behalf of the Gates Foundation. He was traveling with a woman who worked for the foundation. Standing with her at a cocktail party, Mr. Gates lowered his voice and said: “I want to see you. Will you have dinner with me?” according to the woman.
The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she did not want the public attention associated with describing an unwanted advance, said she felt uncomfortable but laughed to avoid responding.
None of this, obviously, is on the scale of Weinstein or anything, but if you’d ever considered Bill Gates a person of impeccable character (I hear your guffaw, Petr!), well, this is not going to help his case. Nor, frankly, will the years-long affair he had, which might have also contributed to his decision to step down from the board of Microsoft a few years ago.
In 2019, Microsoft’s board of directors, on which Mr. Gates sat, opened an investigation into one of those cases after being notified that he had “sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000,” Frank X. Shaw, a Microsoft spokesman, said on Sunday. The board hired a law firm to investigate. The following year, Mr. Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board. The Wall Street Journal reported the 2000 incident and the board’s investigation.
“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” said Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gates. “Gates’s decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter.”
Look, I don’t know. Rich people do rich people things. Gates has apparently described his marriage to Melinda as loveless to his golf buddies, and after learning that Bill and Melinda were married on the 12th hole of a golf course, well, no wonder she didn’t love you, buddy.
Most of this still falls under the category of “inappropriate” and “sketchy” and “untoward” and “Dude, you should f***ing know better,” but the Epstein stuff is still by far the ickiest, including new information revealed by The Daily Beast that Gates purportedly sought advice from Epstein about how to escape his “toxic marriage.”
Gates used the gatherings at Epstein’s $77 million New York townhouse as an escape from what he told Epstein was a “toxic” marriage, a topic both men found humorous, a person who attended the meetings told The Daily Beast.
The billionaire met Epstein dozens of times starting in 2011 and continuing through to 2014 mostly at the financier’s Manhattan home—a substantially higher number than has been previously reported. Their conversations took place years before Bill and Melinda Gates announced this month that they were splitting up.
“[It’s] not an overstatement. Going to Jeffrey’s was a respite from his marriage. It was a way of getting away from Melinda,” one of the people who was at several of the meetings said, adding that Epstein and Gates “were very close.”
Of course, Gates also sought other respites from his marriage. Like, for instance, the annual vacations he took with his ex-girlfriend, which on the first read sounded kind of platonically interesting and healthy (his ex is awesome), but in light of everything else, it feels significantly more suspect.
tl;dr: Nerdy Bill Gates is just like every other dude: Driven by his dick.
Header Image Source: Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times