Melinda French Gates has opened up a bit about what she called her “unbelievably painful” divorce from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Fifty-eight-year-old French Gates told Fortune Magazine: “I had some reasons I just couldn’t stay in that marriage anymore. But the odd thing about COVID is that it gave me the privacy to do what I needed to do.”
She continued: “It’s unbelievably painful, in innumerable ways, but I had the privacy to get through it.”
Melinda and Bill, 66, married in 1994. They were together for 27 years before divorcing in May 2021. They have three children together — Jennifer, 25, Rory, 23, and Phoebe, 19. They were Melinda’s “main concern” during the separation, she said.
The former husband and wife founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. They have continued to run it together even after their separation.
French Gates credits running the organization together with Bill for helping her process her emotions.
“I kept working with the person I was moving away from, and I needed to show up and be my best self every single day,” she said. “So even though I might be crying at 9 a.m. and then have to be on a video conference at 10 a.m. with the person I’m leaving, I have to show up and be my best.”
She added: “I learned as a leader that I could do it. It reminded me that the foundation calls me to be my best.”
The philanthropist disclosed that working with people dealing with hard times during the pandemic allowed her to do her best work during her own difficult time.
“We work with unbelievable partners around the world who were also struggling during COVID,” she said. “I was on a video call with a woman who had lost her father, and a week later she’s on a call with me, right?”
French Gates told Gayle King in an interview with “CBS Mornings” earlier this year that she shed “a lot of tears for many days” and was “grieving a loss” following the divorce.
In 2021, it was revealed Bill had a lengthy affair with a Microsoft employee in 2000 and that he reportedly asked several women out in the office while he was married.
It’s unclear, though, how much French Gates knew about all this at the time.