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

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 $90 billion, and run a namesake philanthropic enterprise boasting a $40.3 billion endowment.

Here’s a look at their 23-year 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. 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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Manny Ceneta / Stringer / Getty Images

Source: TED, Business Insider


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


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 cellphone 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


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. “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


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


Warren Buffett, who is close with the Gates, 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


Bill has said he 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


“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