On the outside this power couple seem to have it all: wealth, success, and a shared passion for making the world a better place.
Bill and Melinda Gates founded their Gates Foundation in 2000 and it’s grown into one of the biggest charitable organizations in the world including donating a grant of $1.75 billion to vaccine initiatives, diagnostics and research during the coronavirus pandemic.
So, when one of the most high-profile successful couples announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage we were all left stunned.
The couple said they “no longer believe [they] can grow together” and the media responded with a plethora of theories on what this means for philanthropy, global health, and the future of tech.
It has also meant for some of us a loss of hope, after all if this couple with a combined wealth of $130 billion, three children, and 27 years of marriage can’t make it, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Now it’s emerged that during Bill Gates’ almost three decades of marriage he’s also managed to maintain a good friendship with a former girlfriend.
The Microsoft co-founder dated venture capitalist Ann Winblad in 1984 after meeting at a Ben Rosen-Esther Dyson computer conference.
According to a Time magazine profile Bill and Ann shared a passion for tech and would go on ‘virtual dates’ by driving to the same movie at the same time in different cities and discussing it on their cell phones.
Bill Gates decades-long other woman Ann Winblad revealed https://t.co/8xNngogixp
— P.M. NEWS (@pmnewsnigeria) May 4, 2021
The couple broke up three years later but remained close friends after the split and Bill even consulted Ann when he was considering proposing to Melinda in the mid-90s. Apparently Ann gave Melinda her seal of approval.
But according to the Times article, writer Walter Isaacson said Bill made an agreement with Melinda that he could continue to see Ann for an annual weekend getaway.
So, every spring the two have spent a long weekend at Ann’s beach cottage in North Carolina where they ride dune biggies, hang glide, and go on walks on the beach.
Ann is co-founder of the venture capital firm Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. After leaving college and joining the federal reserve she then set up an accounting software company which was later sold for $15 million.
I dunno, the “ex-gf” seems pretty legitimate her own right. Better to be honest and upfront with partners than hide it, I’d say. https://t.co/YnRaz0jNco
— crystal ondo (@CrystalOndo) May 4, 2021
The 70-year-old who also worked as a tech consultant for IBM and Microsoft, which she invested in, is married to San Francisco private investigator Edward Alex Kline, the younger brother of actor Kevin Kline.
According to Walter Isaacson Bill and Ann are “kindred minds as well as spirits.”
And when the time came to propose to the writer and former manager at Microsoft, Bill asked Ann “for her approval.”
Winblad gave him her blessing adding: “I said she’d be a good match for him because she had intellectual stamina.”
Melinda Gates approved Bill's unusual arrangement with his ex-girlfriend Ann Winblad https://t.co/io8Lygfnzj
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) May 4, 2021
But Gates refused to compromise spending time with his former flame and every spring they spend a vacation together where they “share our thoughts about the world and ourselves,” Ann said as per Time.
“And we marvel about how, as two young overachievers, we began a great adventure on the fringes of a little-known industry and it landed us at the center of an amazing universe.”
When Bill and Melinda announced they were splitting after 27 years of marriage and 34 years together as a couple earlier this week they released a statement saying: “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) May 3, 2021
“Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives,” as per the statement released on their Twitter accounts.
“We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.
“We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
Bill and Melinda, who met at a trade fair in New York and started dating in 1987, have three children Jennifer, 25, Rory, 21, and Phoebe, 18. Dallas-born Melinda is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes magazine.
Bill Gates spent weekends at the beach alone with his ex-girlfriend EVERY YEAR https://t.co/OtRkLMeBOf
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) May 5, 2021
We all wait with bated breath as to how this separation will play out, who will get Xanadu 2.0, the earth-sheltered mansion overlooking Lake Washington and how will the hundreds of billions be divided?
But, regardless of their material possessions they are both highly intelligent and mature people who have decided to go their own separate ways with the fullest respect for each other and I wish them well.