Bill Gates and Ann Winblad broke up because he wasn’t ready for marriage – and he asked her approval to wed Melinda

BILL Gates and his venture capitalist ex-girlfriend "broke up because he wasn’t ready to tie the knot" – and he asked her approval to marry Melinda, a 1997 article revealed.

Bill, 65, and Ann Winblad, 70, dated in the eighties and broke up once he met Melinda in 1987 – but a report published in the late nineties indicated that their friendship continued.

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A Time Magazine profile on Monday, Jan. 13, 1997, revealed that Bill was unsure about getting married, something he has addressed in subsequent interviews with Melinda.

In this article, he described calling Winblad to see what she thought about Bill making Melinda his wife.

"When I was off on my own thinking about marrying Melinda, I called Ann and asked for her approval," he said, after it emerged that he'd made pros and cons lists before getting hitched.

In turn, Winblad said she approved of their match because Melinda "had intellectual stamina" before the former lovers confirmed Bill's wife allowed their spring getaways to continue every year.

Bill continued his annual spring getaway with former flame at her beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina after he got married, according to Time.

At the time, the magazine noted that this yearly vacation had gone on for "more than a decade."

There, the former couple would ride dune buggies, hang-glide, enjoy long walks on the beach, and "play putt-putt while discussing biotechnology" Bill revealed during the bombshell interview.

"We share our thoughts about the world and ourselves," Winblad explained.

"And we marvel about how, as two young overachievers, we began a great adventure on the fringes of a little-known industry and it landed us at the center of an amazing universe."

It isn't clear how long or if these yearly trips continued after this interview.

The article also notes that Gates had a picture Winblad on a trip to Germany hanging in his office 24 years ago, as well as a snap of his wife with nine friends on a 1995 vacation to Indonesia.

Bill met Winblad at a Ben Rosen-Esther Dyson computer conference in 1984 and they went on to date for three years. 

Years before the coronavirus pandemic propelled remote dating, Bill and his ex had "virtual dates" to keep their long-distance flame going.

They would watch the same movie at the same time and discuss it on the phone.

In 1999, Bill and Winblad teamed up as Hummer Winblad Venture Partners – years before the tech giant confirmed his divorce from wife of 27 years, Melinda.

Melinda previously admitted to The Sunday Times that being with Bill was often “incredibly hard” when they marked 25 years of marriage in 2019.

“When he was having trouble making the decision about getting married, he was incredibly clear that it was not about me," she said before Bill and Winblad's Time interview resurfaced.

"It was about ‘Can I get the balance right between work and family life?”’

In a 2017 interview, the other half of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation opened up about the reality of being married to her tech billionaire husband before describing how isolated she felt in her 2019 book.

After welcoming their first daughter Jennifer, Melinda felt increasingly distant from Bill, who spent all his time at Microsoft and left the parenting duties to her.

In The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, Melinda wrote: "When we first had [our daughter] Jenn, I felt very alone in our marriage.

"Bill was CEO of Microsoft at the time. He was beyond busy; everyone wanted him, and I was thinking, 'OK, maybe he wanted to have kids in theory, but not in reality."'

But Melinda said they then carved out more "equal" roles and a partnership,"which included Bill driving Jennifer to school several days a week.

On Monday, the couple released identical statements on Twitter to announce their divorce "after a great deal of thought" and asked for "space and privacy."

In papers filed in Washington state, Gates' estranged wife said their union was "irretrievably broken" and the court documents stated that they were "separated."

Court documents state that there is no prenuptial agreement in place, calling the $124billion Gates fortune into question.

Melinda asked the judge to end their marriage "on the date stated in our separation contract," signed by her, Bill, and their lawyers; she also stipulates that spousal support is "not needed."

This means Melinda won't be receiving regular payments from Bill and a settlement will likely be negotiated privately.

The gargantuan Gates estate spans property in five states a private jet, an extensive art collection and a fleet of luxury cars.

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