The end of the 27-year marriage of Bill and Melinda Gates looks tidier, so far, than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s parting from his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott, but will no doubt turn into another fee fountain for Seattle’s legal fraternity. Melinda French was a manager at Microsoft, the software giant created and driven by Bill, when the two met in 1987 — and is widely credited with turning him from a hardcore techie and ruthless competitor into a mellower, more admirable human being.
The $50 billion charity they created together has become the flagbearer for ‘venture philanthropy’, which is the application of large-scale private funds to address global problems, particularly in healthcare, that governments and market forces fail to solve. Critics say that concept pays too much heed to the whims of the super-rich: the Gates’s foundation has made huge contributions to the fight against malaria, HIV/Aids and other infectious diseases, but Bill won no friends when he said recently that intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines should not be shared with developing nations such as India, apparently because their factories might not be safe.
Bill was right when he said of Melinda two years ago: ‘She’s better with people than I am.’ Let’s hope she can still keep him in check at the Foundation even as they ‘no longer grow together as a couple’.