The divorce between Bill and Melinda Gates after a 27-year marriage has been in the works for years, partly out of Melinda's concern with her husband's dealings with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, according to a pair of reports.
The Daily Beast and The Wall Street Journal have reported that the Microsoft co-founder's meetings over the years with Epstein, which were detailed in a 2019 story by The New York Times, became a source of tension between the couple.
Melinda Gates began talking to divorce attorneys roughly two years before filing, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing "people familiar with the matter" and documents it reviewed. NBC News has not yet independently seen or verified those documents.
The couple, who have an estimated $130 billion fortune, announced in a joint statement last week that their 27-year marriage was ending because "we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives."
The Wall Street Journal cited multiple sources and a former employee of their charity saying Melinda became concerned with Bill's meetings with Epstein, who died in prison in August 2019 while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
Spokespeople for both Bill and Melinda have not responded to requests for comment by NBC News regarding the reasons for their split and the Journal report.
Melinda and her advisors held "a number of calls" in October 2019 with divorce lawyers, according to documents obtained by the Journal. That was the same month The New York Times reported that Bill met with Epstein "on numerous occasions" beginning in 2011, after Epstein had served time in 2008 for soliciting prostitution.
The Times also reported that one stay at Epstein's Manhattan townhouse lasted late into the night, citing "more than a dozen people familiar with the relationship."
Gates was asked in 2019 about his dealings with Epstein at a New York Times forum.
"I made a mistake in judgment that I thought that those discussions would lead literally to billions of dollars going to global health," he said. "Turned out, that was a bad judgment, that was a mirage, none of that money ever appeared and I gave him some benefit by the association, so I made a doubly wrong mistake there."
Melinda filed for divorce shortly after last week's public announcement, saying in court documents that their relationship was "irretrievably broken."