Billionaire philanthropist Melinda French Gates: beyond her former marriage to Bill Gates

Billionaire philanthropist Melinda French Gates: beyond her former marriage to Bill Gates

What is Melinda French Gates’ family background?

A young Melinda Ann French in Banff National Park in Canada. Photo: @melindafrenchgates/Instagram

Melinda Ann French was born on August 15, 1964, in Dallas, Texas. Her father, an aerospace engineer who worked for Nasa, encouraged her keen interest in science and technology from a young age, even telling her she should learn to code, she recalled once in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

After graduating from the prestigious Duke University, she became a marketing manager at Microsoft where she worked on everything from Encarta to Expedia, per The Independent.

How did Melinda French Gates meet Bill Gates?

Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates in happier times. Photo: @thisisbillgates/Instagram

Melinda first met Bill at a work dinner in New York in 1987, less than a month into her Microsoft job, according to her interview with David Rubenstein. However, she admitted that being in a relationship with the company’s founder worried her at first.

“The first date with Bill I thought I would go out with him once, maybe twice. Then when I realised we were gonna start dating more I thought, this is tricky,” she said, adding, “I’m not sure I wanna do this, because I’d worked really hard to get my MBA, I’d studied economics. and I thought ‘I’m not sure this is gonna go well for me’.”

Microsoft then-chief Bill Gates (left) and his wife Melinda French Gates give the keynote speech to open the 16th International Aids Conference at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada, in 2006. Photo: EPA

Despite her reservations, the pair got married in Hawaii in 1994, went on to have three children together, and, in 2000, created the organisation that continues to be their legacy – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, per People.

Why did Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates divorce?

Bill Gates (right) and Melinda French Gates of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation speak during a press conference at the 40th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, in 2010. Photo: EPA
The billionaire couple announced their split in 2021 amid speculation that Bill had once cheated on his wife, which he later admitted to. In 2022, Melinda opened up to Gayle King on CBS Mornings.

“It wasn’t one moment or one specific thing that happened. There just came a point in time where there was enough there that I realised it just wasn’t healthy, and I couldn’t trust what we had,” she told the host. When asked if Bill had had multiple affairs during their marriage, Melinda simply replied “those are questions Bill needs to answer”.

Melinda also admitted that she “did not like that [Bill had] had meetings with Jeffrey Epstein” and that she’d “made that clear to him”.

How many children does Melinda French Gates have?

Melinda French Gates and Phoebe Gates attend the Michael Kors runway show during New York Fashion week in New York, in September 2022. Photo: AFP
Melinda and Bill share 28-year old Jennifer, 25-year old Rory and 21-year-old Phoebe, and have often talked about the importance of not spoiling their children despite the family’s enormous wealth.

Melinda has also said that, although co-parenting with Bill has been difficult since their divorce, her “main concern was trying to protect my kids through it” in an interview with Fortune.

Philanthropist Melinda French Gates and Rory Gates arrive at the Booksellers Room of the White House on the occasion of the state dinner with the Kenyan president at the White House in Washington DC, on May 23. Photo: AFP

Is Melinda French Gates dating anyone?

Melinda French Gates was rumoured to be dating Jon Du Pre. Photo: @informate_ng/Instagram
Since late 2022, it was believed that French Gates was dating former Fox News correspondent Jon Du Pre. However, this April, a representative for French Gates told People that the pair were no longer dating.

How much is Melinda French Gates worth?

Melinda Gates speaks during Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations at PlayStation Theater in February 2019, in New York City. Photo: Getty Images/TNS

Now thought to be worth around US$11 billion, Melinda’s wealth is primarily derived from her former marriage to Bill. As part of their divorce settlement, she received a significant portion of their shared assets: “We spent some time coming up with a fair settlement that we both signed,” Bill told The Sunday Times in 2022, adding that it was mostly about how much they wanted to each be able to give away, rather than keep.

Warren Buffett, Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates created the Giving Pledge together. Photo: AP
Melinda has pledged to give away most her wealth through philanthropic efforts in accordance with the Giving Pledge, an initiative she co-founded with Bill and Warren Buffett.

What is Melinda French Gates doing now?

Melinda French Gates and actress Rosario Dawson discussing solutions for female entrepreneurs to access capital at a World Bank and IMF event in April. Photo: @melindafrenchgates

These days better known as a philanthropist, French Gates has primarily focused on issues related to gender equality, education and global health over the years, with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation being famously instrumental in tackling diseases such as malaria and HIV/Aids. The couple have reportedly invested US$59.5 billion of their own money into the foundation since its inception, per its website.

Melinda French Gates in Malawi supporting an initiative between the Girls Opportunity Alliance and the Gates Foundation. Photo: @michelleobama/Instagram

Nevertheless, this May she announced she would be stepping down as co-chair of the foundation, and will instead channel her energy into helping women and girls – a cause especially close to her heart.

In 2015, she founded Pivotal Ventures to help remove “barriers to access and opportunity for minorities and women in the US”, per CNBC, while Fortune reports that, in recent weeks, she’s begun directing new grants through the organisation in light of the new restrictions on reproductive rights in the US.

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