Inside the marriage of Bill and Melinda Gates, who met at work, live in a $124 million home, and will leave their children only a small fraction of their fortune

Melinda Gates didn't think her future husband was

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Melinda Gates didn’t think her future husband was “spontaneous” enough at first.
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Scott Olson/Getty Images

  • Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, married Melinda French in 1994.
  • They met at Microsoft when Melinda was brought on a product manager – she initially turned down Bill’s request for a date at a company picnic.
  • Today, they run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of $40.3 billion.

Melinda French was less than impressed when her boss asked her out on a date.

It was 1987, and the recent Duke graduate had just joined Microsoft as a product manager. CEO Bill Gates approached her at a company picnic and asked if she’d be interested in grabbing dinner in two weeks. She responded, “That’s not spontaneous enough for me,” Fortune reported in 2015.

Fast-forward three decades, and Bill and Melinda Gates are married with three kids, worth $92.2 billion, and run a namesake philanthropic enterprise boasting a $40.3 billion endowment.

Here’s a look at their marriage.


At the picnic, Melinda gave Bill her number and told him to call her closer to the day he had in mind.

Source: Business Insider


Instead, he called her up later that night with a wry question: “Is this spontaneous enough for you?” Turns out, it was.

Source: Business Insider


Melinda and Bill dated for seven years before they wed. Melinda told Fortune her mom didn’t think that seeing the CEO was a good idea in the beginning.

Source: Business Insider, Fortune


But the couple didn’t listen. Business Insider’s Tanza Loudenback reported they “kept a low profile at work and asked colleagues and family members to respect their privacy.”

Source: Business Insider, Seattle Times, Business Insider


“When I look back, Bill was the same kind of guy I was hanging out with in college,” Melinda told Fortune. “I had a lot of respect for them, and they had respect for me.”

Source: Business Insider, Fortune


“I was definitely attracted to his brilliant mind, but beyond that, his curiosity,” she told Fortune. “And he has a huge sense of fun. I love that wry side of him.”

Source: Business Insider, Fortune


After they were engaged, Bill and Melinda traveled to Africa in late 1993. During the trip, they encountered people in extreme poverty.

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Manny Ceneta / Stringer / Getty Images

Source: TED, Business Insider


On a walk on a beach in Zanzibar, Melinda told TED in an interview, the couple “started to talk about” how they might use their fortune to help others.

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Ivan Pavlov/Shutterstock

Source: TED, Business Insider


That’s when the idea that would ultimately become the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began to take root. “It’s not fair that we have so much wealth when billions of others have so little,” Melinda wrote, in the couple’s most recent annual letter.

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Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Source: Gates Notes


The couple married in 1994 in what was then Manele Bay Hotel in Hawaii. They tied the knot by the “par-3 12th hole” on the property’s golf course, according to Forbes. The event reportedly cost $1 million.

Source: Business Insider, EasyWeddings.com, Forbes, People magazine, Business Insider


To keep the wedding private, Bill booked all the rooms in the hotel, along with all of the helicopters on the island of Maui to “prevent unwanted visitors from flying over,” Forbes reported.

Source: Business Insider, EasyWeddings.com, Forbes


Bill’s parents gifted the newlyweds with a sculpture of two birds, sitting side-by-side and staring at the horizon. “It’s still in front of our house,” Melinda wrote in the couples’ 2018 annual letter. “I think of it all the time, because fundamentally we’re looking in the same direction.”

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Bachkova Natalia/Shutterstock

Source: Gates Notes


The next year, the couple’s lavish home — nicknamed “Xanadu 2.0” — was completed in Medina, Washington. The mansion’s estimated worth was $124 million in 2016.

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Dan Callister / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, The Economic Times


The couple has raised two daughters and a son — and didn’t let any of them own a cell phone until they were 14, according to The Mirror.

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider, The Mirror


Bill told Rolling Stone the children were raised Catholic. “We’ve raised our kids in a religious way,” he said. “They’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in.”

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

Source: Rolling Stone


Bill and Melinda would read books from a range of genres to their kids as they grew up, from “Guess How Much I Love You” to “Fahrenheit 451.”

Source: Business Insider


Gates has said his wife is a driving force when it comes to bringing the family together. “Melinda is very creative about helping me find chances to spend time with the kids,” Gates wrote in a 2017 Reddit AMA. “Even just driving them to school is a great time to talk to them.”

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John Moore/Getty Images

Source: Reddit


Each of the Gates’ kids will inherit about $10 million of their parents’ $89.6 billion fortune, while much of the rest will go to charitable causes.

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Yana Paskova / Getty

Source: Business Insider, TED, Bankrate.com


“We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing,” Bill told TED.

Source: Business Insider, TED, Bankrate.com


The Gates also support their kids in other ways. The couple spent $37 million purchasing a string of Wellington, Florida properties in 2016. The reason? Their daughter Jennifer is a nationally ranked show jumper, and the Florida town is the equestrian capital of the US.

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Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider, Business Insider


Melinda has said her relationship with her husband has changed over time. “We’ve had to change to really be coequals,” she said. “It’s not something that immediately happens overnight, but we’re both committed to it.”

Source: Business Insider, Fortune


According to Melinda, Bill was used to being in charge from his Microsoft days when they first started the foundation.

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Melinda and Bill Gates.
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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation/YouTube

Source: Gates Notes


But these days, Bill and Melinda work as partners at the foundation. They both received Presidential Medals of Freedom in 2016 from President Barack Obama for their efforts.

Source: Business Insider, The White House


They work to make sure their schedules are synchronized, complimentary, and balanced. “Melinda and I look over our schedules a lot to make sure we are balancing things well,” Gates wrote in a 2018 Reddit AMA.

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John Lamparski/Getty Images

Source: Reddit


In response to a question about how the couple handles arguments, Melinda jokingly wrote “we never disagree” in the Gates’ 2018 annual letter.

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Darren McCollester, Getty

Source: Gates Notes


“Our occasional disagreements these days are over tactics. Because I’ve been a public figure longer, and because I’m a man, some people assume I am making the big decisions. That’s never been the case,” Bill wrote in the Gates Foundation’s annual letter for 2018.

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TED/James Duncan Davidson

Source: Gates Notes


Melinda added that the couple avoids serious disagreements by sharing fundamental values, trust, and a sense of open-mindedness.

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Melinda and Bill Gates.
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Brian Ach/Getty Images for The Lasker Foundation

Source: Gates Notes


Warren Buffett, who is close with the couple, told Fortune that Bill was “smart as hell, obviously,” but that “in terms of seeing the whole picture,” Melinda was smarter.

Source: Fortune, Business Insider


In a Reddit AMA, Gates disclosed that his wife and Buffett were his two favorite celebrities…

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Spencer Platt / Getty

Source: Reddit


… followed by Bono and Jimmy Carter. He added that Nelson Mandela was the most impressive political leader he’s ever met.

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Michael Dalder/Reuters

Source: Reddit


When it comes to their working partnership, Bill wrote that the perception that Melinda is “the heart” of the organization is a bit of a stereotype, in the 2018 annual letter.

Source: Gates Notes


“Just as she knows I’m more emotional than people realize, I know she’s more analytical than people realize. When I get really enthusiastic about something, I count on her to make sure I’m being realistic.”

Source: Gates Notes


“Melinda and I believe that everyone deserves the chance for a healthy and productive life — and so with the help of our amazing partners, we are working to find innovative ways to help people in need all over the world,” Bill wrote during one of his Reddit AMAs.

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Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Source: Reddit