Bill and Melinda Gates reportedly had an agreement that allowed him to see his ex-girlfriend for an annual weekend getaway.
Mr Gates had dated Ann Winblad, an American businesswoman, in the 1980s and entered into an arrangement with his wife, Melinda, that allowed him to spend a long weekend with her.
A 1997 Time profile by Walter Isaacson discusses his relationship with Ms Winblad and the extent of his involvement with her after his marriage with Melinda in 1994. The interview resurfaced after the multibillionaire philanthropist couple announced their decision to dissolve 27 years of marriage.
“Another of Gates’ vacation companions is Ann Winblad, the software entrepreneur and venture capitalist he dated during the 1980s,” Mr Isaacson wrote.
“They met in 1984 at a Ben Rosen-Esther Dyson computer conference and started going on ‘virtual dates’ by driving to the same movie at the same time in different cities and discussing it on their cell phones. For a few years she even persuaded him to stop eating meat, an experiment he has since resolutely abandoned.”
Mr Gates and Ms Winbald broke up in 1987, “partly because Winblad, five years older, was more ready for marriage,” says the profile, which added that they remained close friends.
“Even now, Gates has an arrangement with his wife that he and Winblad can keep one vacation tradition alive,” said the piece. “Every spring, as they have for more than a decade, Gates spends a long weekend with Winblad at her beach cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where they ride dune buggies, hang-glide and walk on the beach.”
Mr Gates told Mr Isaacson that they would play “putt-putt while discussing biotechnology”.
Elaborating on their bond, Ms Winblad added that they would share their thoughts about the world and themselves and “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.”
He even sought the approval of Ms Winblad before proposing to his wife.
“When I was off on my own thinking about marrying Melinda, I called Ann and asked for her approval,” Mr Gates said, adding that he had Ms Winblad’s support in the decision.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies