“I had several dinners with him, you know, hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health through contacts that he had might emerge. When it looked like that was not a real thing, that relationship ended,” Mr Gates told CNN News.
“It was a huge mistake to spend time with him, to give him the credibility of being there,” he said.
“You know, there were lots of others in that same situation, but I made a mistake,” he added.
The relationship the tech billionaire had with Epstein has been under the scanner for a while, with numerous media reports, some without clear evidence, making a wide range of claims.
Some reports said Mr Gates confided in Epstein about his toxic marriage, while others claimed Epstein’s involvement in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
One report by the Wall Street Journal said Mr Gates’s social connection with Epstein was a factor in his divorce with Melinda French Gates. Mr Gates declined to respond to that report, according to CNN.
The power couple’s divorce was finalised earlier this week, ending their 27-year-old marriage. It remains unclear how their assets will be divided between them.
Mr Gates described the culmination of his marriage as a “very sad milestone”.
“Melinda is a great person and that partnership coming to an end is great personal sadness.”
Mr Gates, whose fortune is estimated to be $150bn (£108bn), had met Ms French Gates after she began working at Microsoft as a product manager in 1987.
The two were married in 1994 in Hawaii. Incorporated in 2000, their philanthropic endeavour, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is considered one of the most influential private foundations in the world. It has an endowment worth about $50bn (£36bn) and focuses on global health, poverty reduction and gender equality.
Mark Suzman, the head of the foundation, said the Gates family will determine over the next couple of years if it will be possible for the former couple to try and continue working together there.
“Melinda has incredible strengths that she brings that help the foundation be better. We have always enjoyed our work together. Two of us can go out and work with leaders and help build the organisation … that would be definitely the best thing for the foundation,” Mr Gates said.
If after two years, however, they decide it will not be possible to continue in their roles, Ms French Gates will resign her positions as co-chair and trustee, the foundation said earlier this month. Mr Gates will then compensate Ms French Gates using his personal funds, reported CNN.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies