Bill Gates has denied having any "business relationship or friendship" with Jeffrey Epstein

By Rachel DeSantis
May 13, 2021 09:00 AM
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Bill Gates has denied having any substantial ties to Jeffrey Epstein — but whatever relationship the two had was enough to bother his estranged wife Melinda Gates, a source tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.

Though the high-profile couple announced their split just last week, Bill's meetings with the late convicted sex offender had irked Melinda, 56, for years, the insider says: "Epstein is definitely a sore spot. That's a long time for issues to fester."

Epstein, a billionaire financier, died by suicide inside a jail cell in August 2019 while awaiting trial on federal conspiracy and sex trafficking charges. Three weeks later, the criminal case against him was dismissed due to his death.

The New York Times reported in 2019 that Bill, now 65, first met Epstein after the latter had already served jail time for soliciting prostitution for a minor and was registered as a sex offender.

Though Bill told the Wall Street Journal at the time that he did not have "any business relationship or friendship" with Epstein, the Times reported that beginning in 2011, the two men met multiple times, and discussed Epstein's proposal to help raise funds for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that never came to fruition.

bill and melinda gates; jeffrey epstein
Bill Gates and Melinda Gates
| Credit: Daniel Berman/Redux

The source tells PEOPLE that anything involving Epstein was "major trauma" for Melinda, who filed for divorce from Bill after 27 years of marriage.

"She was totally opposed to what she considered shady dealings and some other issues he wanted to pursue in the business area," the source says. "She was not afraid to speak up about it either."

Ultimately, however, the split was due to a "variety of reasons," the source says.

For more on Bill and Melinda Gates, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here

Melinda did not request spousal support or child support in her court documents, but did request that the court enforce the couple's separation contract, which is an agreement to resolve issues that would otherwise be left to the court to determine, like division of property, support and child-related issues.

She called her marriage "irretrievably broken" in the documents, and in their joint announcement, she and Bill said they "no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives."

The philanthropist and the three children she shares with Bill — daughters Jennifer, 25, and Phoebe, 18, and son Rory, 21 — rented a private island in Grenada for $132,000 a night as the divorce announcement neared.

"I think the whole family wishes this would go away so they can return to their lives — whatever that may be now," a friend tells PEOPLE.

  • Reporting by LINDA MARX