Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that he had meetings with convicted sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein because the enigmatic financier had connections to wealthy people.
"I met him. I didn't have any business relationship or friendship with him. I didn't go to New Mexico or Florida or Palm Beach or any of that," Gates told the newspaper in an interview published Tuesday. "There were people around him who were saying, hey, if you want to raise money for global health and get more philanthropy, he knows a lot of rich people."
Gates' meetings with Epstein, who died of an apparent suicide last month while awaiting a trial on new sex crimes charges, were first reported by CNBC. Gates met with Epstein more than once, including in 2013 while he was the chairman of Microsoft, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting an underage prostitute and was listed in the national sex offender registry. Before his death, federal prosecutors in New York accused him of overseeing sex trafficking networks of underage girls in Florida and New York.
In 2013, Gates was worth an estimated $67 billion, according to Forbes, making him the second wealthiest person in the world. His wealth has increased to over $100 billion as of September, according to the magazine's tally.
In the interview with the Journal, Gates said he never had meetings with Epstein at which women were present.
"Every meeting where I was with him were meetings with men," Gates said. "I was never at any parties or anything like that. He never donated any money to anything that I know about."
Bill and his wife, Melinda, run the wealthiest charitable foundation in the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its assets in 2018 were worth almost $48 billion, according to documents released by the charity. Its assets were worth more than $41 billion in 2013.
Gates did not immediately respond to questions, submitted through a foundation representative, about why he would need Epstein's help connecting with wealthy people and whether it is typical for his business meetings to include no women.
Epstein's meetings with Gates followed an extensive lobbying effort by Epstein, people close to Gates previously told CNBC.
Following the 2013 meeting between the two men, Epstein arranged for a $2 million donation from Gates to the MIT Media Lab, according to a report in The New Yorker. A spokesperson for Gates said in a statement provided to the Journal that "any claim that Epstein directed any programmatic or personal grantmaking for Bill Gates is completely false."