Melinda Gates’ lawyer reveals what he advises billionaires and celebrities not to do when settling a divorce

robert stephan cohen
Cohen sat down with Insider for an interview from his midtown Manhattan office on May 25, 2021.

  • Melinda Gates’ divorce lawyer told Insider the spouses of very wealthy people sometimes settle for much less than they deserve.
  • Robert Stephan Cohen said he’d try to talk a client out of a deal where they’re giving up too much.
  • To resolve bitter financial disputes, he often proposes setting up trusts for a couple’s children.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As Bill and Melinda Gates divide their enormous and complex estate, Melinda has the backing of a divorce lawyer who has decades of experience advising high-net-worth and celebrity clients.

Her attorney, Robert Stephan Cohen, recently sat down with Insider for an exclusive interview, speaking broadly about the complexities of a billionaire’s divorce and how America’s elite divide their astronomical wealth when their marriages crumble.

Occasionally, Cohen said the spouses of very wealthy people don’t ask for as much money as they could and instead settle for much less. He added that if he thinks a client is about to do a deal he thinks is “egregiously bad,” he’ll advise them to not to take it.

“I might push them a little bit and try to get them to see the other side of it,” he said. “Remember: for the unmoneyed spouse, it’s likely to be the largest business deal that they’ll ever do in their life. And they really need to think about it, because they may not have a second opportunity.”

Some clients will find a happy medium between the extremes of accepting too little or demanding too much of their spouse, and those are the cases Cohen says he resolves fairly easily out of court.

If Cohen were to represent the wife of a man who’s worth $500 million, he said it wouldn’t be unusual for that client to ask him to win a settlement closer to $100 million or $115 million, rather than a full $250 million. In such a case, Cohen said he could simply call up the lawyer representing the hypothetical husband – it’s a small number of elite divorce lawyers handling these cases, and they all know each other.

“You’ll never get that deal again,” Cohen said. “Because if we go to court and we have to fight about that, you know what the end result is going to be, because I know what the end result is going to be, and you’re a smart guy.”

Though the famed Manhattan lawyer has a long reputation for being “mean” and a “killer,” Cohen said people would be surprised by how fair he tries to be. He said he often has to remind his clients that what they consider fair may be very different from what their spouse considers fair.

“One of my jobs is not only to do well for my client, but I think one of my jobs is also to make it possible that both parties at the end of the day feel reasonably good about the resolution,” he said. “Especially if there are children involved.”

Melinda French Gates
Melinda French Gates speaks onstage at a February 2019 event.

Cohen considers himself something of an expert at determining what’s a square deal: He’s known for winning the first major equitable-distribution case in New York in 1985, Karp v. Karp, after the state’s divorce laws required marital assets to be split “equitably” – which means the assets must be distributed fairly, but not necessarily 50/50.

“To be candid, I’d like my client to come out a little better than ‘reasonably fair,’ but nevertheless, I want both people to walk away and say, ‘I did okay,'” Cohen said.

But he acknowledged that he has to get “clever” at times when fairness doesn’t cut it. When neither side can agree on the amount of money that should be paid to or received by a given spouse, Cohen often will propose taking that sum and creating a trust for the couple’s children.

“You’re doing something you’re likely to do anyway, which is leave money to your kids,” he said. “It’s a way to sort of get around the delta that we sometimes run into.”

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Chris Rock reveals a key piece of advice he got from his divorce attorney, who now represents Melinda Gates

chris rock
Chris Rock spoke to Insider in an interview about his former divorce lawyer, who is now representing Melinda Gates.

  • Chris Rock opened up about his experience with famed divorce lawyer Robert Stephan Cohen.
  • Cohen is currently representing Melinda Gates, who could land the largest-ever divorce settlement.
  • Rock said Cohen once told him the bitterest divorce disputes only amount to a fraction of what’s at stake.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the worst moments of Chris Rock’s famously bitter 2016 divorce, the comedian said there was one piece of wisdom his lawyer shared that helped him get through the two-year legal battle.

That attorney, Robert Stephan Cohen, made headlines in recent weeks after court filings revealed he’s representing Melinda Gates in her divorce from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Rock told Insider in an interview that Cohen was a capable, intelligent, and realistic lawyer who helped the comedian see the bigger picture: That most of his divorce had already been resolved, and the most contentious parts composed a tiny fraction of what was at stake.

“Put it this way. People get divorced. People fight. Things take sometimes years. At the end of the day, you’re only talking 4%, one way or the other,” Rock said. “[Cohen] said that to me. I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ And that put it in perspective.”

Cohen told Insider his 4% rule holds up in most divorces he handles. He’s one of the most prominent divorce lawyers in the country, and has represented a number of other high-profile clients, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the actors Uma Thurman and James Gandolfini, and both of Donald Trump’s ex-wives, Ivana Trump and Marla Maples.

“At the end of the day, the differences are usually a small percentage. Both with respect to money, and with respect to custody issues,” he said.

robert stephan cohen
Cohen sat down with Insider for an interview from his midtown Manhattan office on May 25, 2021.

Rock’s turbulent divorce was highly publicized, and he’s since opened up about his flaws as a husband – in particular, his numerous infidelities.

But he said Cohen remained cool-headed throughout the process, particularly when it came to disputes over child custody.

“I had some issues,” Rock said. “It’s like, when you’re a guy, some people don’t even think you want to see your kids. [Cohen] was very understanding about all of that.”

“He got me through a very tough time in my life,” Rock added.

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Melinda Gates’ divorce lawyer told us how he handles bitter splits between billionaire clients

robert stephan cohen
Cohen sat down with Insider for an interview from his midtown Manhattan office on May 25, 2021.

  • Robert Stephan Cohen has made a name for himself representing celebrities and billionaires.
  • Now the lawyer is representing Melinda Gates, whose split from Bill Gates will likely be one of history’s largest divorce settlements.
  • Cohen told Insider about the complexities of celebrity divorces and how America’s elite divide their astronomical wealth.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When a celebrity or a billionaire sits down for the first time with Manhattan’s most infamous divorce attorney, the conversation gets deep. Quickly.

Robert Stephan Cohen always asks the potential new client about sex – namely, whether they’re still having it – as well as how they made their money and why their marriage is failing. He’s brutally honest about his thoughts, and it’s not unusual for the conversation to end with Cohen talking the person out of a divorce entirely.

“I find that if people are still able to be happily married and be intimate, I think there’s something to save,” Cohen said.

Over his 58-year career, Cohen has been called a “killer,” a “Doberman,” and “your worst nightmare.” He has represented a parade of celebrities, multi-millionaires, and billionaires – from the actors Uma Thurman and James Gandolfini, to both of Donald Trump’s ex-wives, to former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Yet in person, Cohen is warm and thoughtful. In a recent interview with Insider from his offices on the 32nd floor of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper, the 82-year-old attorney frequently cracked jokes and asked questions of his own.

It’s a high-stakes moment for Cohen: He’s representing Melinda Gates in her split from Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Their divorce settlement could very well become the largest in history.

bill and melinda gates
Bill and Melinda Gates said in court filings they “no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

Bill Gates is currently the fourth-richest person in the world and worth an estimated $126 billion, according to Forbes. It’s unclear whether the couple has a prenuptial agreement – Cohen declined to comment on the Gates’ divorce specifically – but the divorce petition asked that their assets be divided in accordance with a separation contract, the details of which remain a mystery.

A frenzy of rumors and gossip, including reports that Bill Gates had affairs with other Microsoft employees and ties to the accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, followed the billionaire power couple’s announcement in court filings last month that their 27-year marriage was “irretrievably broken.”

Cohen spoke with Insider broadly about the complexities of a billionaire’s divorce, and how America’s elite divide their astronomical wealth when their marriages crumble.

“The wealth that exists in the United States is staggering. Even to me,” Cohen said. “Remember: For the person who doesn’t have the money, it’s likely to be the largest business deal that they’ll ever do in their life.”

Code names and 2 a.m. phone calls

Cohen said each of his cases involving a high-net-worth client starts off the same way: with an initial meeting.

Many of the issues at stake for a billionaire or movie star are the same ones facing the average American couple – infidelity, conflict, and money troubles. Cohen said he’ll spend about 90 minutes in each intake meeting delving into “the psychology of how to deal with the divorce.”

Cohen has to ask his wealthy clients whether there are children involved, whether custody disputes will arise, how the client made their money, when they started to make their money, and why their marriage broke down.

“Divorce lawyers are like doctors in a weird way,” the comedian Chris Rock told Insider. Cohen represented Rock in 2016, during his highly-publicized divorce from his wife of 19 years.

“They need to have a good bedside manner. And Bob has a very good, soothing manner. Gets you through, lets you see the big picture,” Rock said. “He explains the realities of the situation.”

chris rock
Chris Rock told Insider that Cohen helped him through a “very tough time in my life.”

When a client decides to retain him, Cohen said that’s when he and his team dig in for the long haul. They start pulling in financial statements and reviewing the details of their client’s assets. He’s cultivated a bevy of experts in securities, real estate, and banking to help with his biggest cases over the years. His firm, Cohen Clair Lans Greifer Thorpe & Rottenstreich LLP, has three lawyers on staff who are also certified public accountants and often help his team with complex tax or securities laws.

“In the olden days, we dealt with spreadsheets and accountants and it took months sometimes to put together a financial statement for a wealthy client,” he said. Today, it can be as simple as making a single phone call or having an elite client “press a button” and deliver him a relatively accurate financial statement.

With celebrities like Rock, Cohen has to strategize around the client’s privacy protections.

“We have more code names for our clients in this firm than probably a lot of other firms who do these things, because we have to generally hide and keep secret the fact that we’re representing somebody before it becomes public,” he said.

Cohen said as soon as he receives a call from a celebrity, he comes up with a code word – a previous client was “watermelon” – to be used only by him and the other lawyers working on the case. The rest of his firm, and even his wife, usually won’t know what the code word stands for.

The attorney-client relationship is also remarkably close, Cohen said, no matter how famous the client is, or how many managers or assistants try to intervene. All clients get his personal cellphone number, with the caveat that they use it responsibly.

Cohen said a celebrity client once phoned him in the middle of the night, exclaiming, “Bob, I need to talk to you.”

When Cohen noted that it was 2 a.m., she responded, “Well, it’s only 11 o’clock in LA.”

‘He’s not a shark’

Celebrity divorce attorneys are a small and exclusive bunch. Many of Cohen’s toughest adversaries are also his friends – and despite frequently facing off with him in the courtroom, they sing his praises outside of it.

To succeed in divorce cases where millions of dollars are at stake, attorneys like Cohen have to know so much more than alimony laws, according to David Saxe, a retired New York Supreme Court justice.

“To be a good lawyer in that context, you have to know a lot more than what the divorce law says,” Saxe told Insider. “You have to understand corporate law, you have to understand estate law, you have to understand tax law, partnership law, commercial law.”

“You have to be a thoroughly well-rounded business lawyer to represent those clients properly in a divorce, and that’s what Bob Cohen does,” he continued. “That’s his specialty.”

Saxe, who as a justice frequently oversaw divorces where Cohen represented one of the parties, said Cohen was “a gentleman to his adversaries” despite his formidable reputation. He never had to admonish Cohen in court, nor did he ever catch Cohen trying to take advantage of another lawyer.

“They used to call matrimonial lawyers ‘sharks,'” Saxe said. “He’s not a shark. He always kept on the high road, and I think that won him the plaudits of the other judges … as well as his colleagues.”

Rock said Cohen was a calm, bracing presence during a miserable period in his life. The comedian has since been candid over his faults and infidelities during his marriage, and his famously bitter divorce involved rumored disputes over child custody.

“I had some issues,” Rock acknowledged. “It’s like, when you’re a guy, some people don’t even think you want to see your kids. He was very understanding about all of that.”

Rock said one piece of wisdom from Cohen helped him through the worst of a two-year legal battle: The harshest disagreements make up only a tiny percentage of what’s at stake in a divorce.

“Put it this way. People get divorced. People fight. Things take sometimes years. At the end of the day, you’re only talking 4%, one way or the other,” Rock said. “[Cohen] said that to me. I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ And that put it in perspective.”

“No one – not in America, anyway – gets killed in a divorce. You know what I mean?” Rock continued. “There’s no lawyer that ever got somebody so much more than they were supposed to get, or so much less. It just doesn’t exist in this country.”

From Coney Island to midtown Manhattan

Cohen was raised in Coney Island, Brooklyn, the son of a taxi driver father and a homemaker mother.

Initially keen on dentistry at Alfred University in western New York, Cohen took a course on constitutional law in his junior year, became hooked, and decided to become a lawyer instead.

Cohen learned about ambition and wealth relatively early in his career, under the wing of Roy Cohn, the notoriously ruthless prosecutor and right-hand man of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

“I will say that my politics were quite different than his,” Cohen said. “But he was regarded as a brilliant lawyer. Other issues surround him, but he was nevertheless a brilliant lawyer.”

Beyond his legal prowess, Cohn taught Cohen about the finer things in life, taking him on rides in private airplanes and showing him office suites on Park Avenue.

“I got to see things that I never saw, and I got a taste for it,” Cohen said. “Ambition is very much part of not only a successful lawyer, but being successful at anything you want to do. You’ve got to want to achieve the highest level that you can.”

lipstick building
Cohen’s sprawling matrimonial law firm is housed in the Lipstick Building in midtown Manhattan.

Though Cohen started out as a corporate lawyer, his name became inextricably linked with divorce law when he represented the billionaire private equity giant Henry Kravis in a post-matrimonial case in the 1990s.

“It was not a divorce case, but it sort of smelled a little like a divorce case,” Cohen said. “My name was in the newspaper attached to this lawsuit that I had won; we got the case dismissed and everybody started calling me. They thought I was some matrimonial lawyer.”

He took on a few matrimonial cases, then “got good and kept getting better,” he said. Eventually, word-of-mouth recommendations among the Hollywood and Wall Street elite led him to develop a lucrative matrimonial boutique firm and a renowned teaching career. His “Anatomy of a Divorce” class at the University of Pennsylvania Law School has been popular among students for years, according to Eleanor Barrett, the school’s associate dean.

The types of divorces that Cohen specializes in are known as “business divorces,” Saxe said. They involve absurdly wealthy clients – often hedge fund managers, corporate moguls, or real estate developers – who come with sprawling assets in all manner of hiding places.

Whether a divorce lawyer is representing the moneyed or less-moneyed spouse, they have to be savvy enough to understand how to approach that level of wealth, Saxe said.

“The divorce comes right in the middle of this financial empire, and Bob would have to navigate that,” he said.

As for representing Melinda Gates? Saxe said he thinks Cohen is well-suited to getting the best deal possible for the woman who could become the second-richest in the world.

“Those people could probably retain any lawyer in the world,” Saxe said. “They want somebody who is highly professional, that is discreet … and who will listen carefully and give good advice. And he can do all of those things.”

Fewer Americans are getting divorced – and fewer are getting married

The twilight years of Cohen’s career have arrived as both marriage and divorce rates plummet in the United States.

Census data shows divorce rates have steeply decreased in the last decade. At the same time, experts say younger generations are marrying later in life (or, increasingly, not at all), and waiting until after they reach major milestones like graduating, establishing their careers, or buying homes.

Cohen said he was aware of the trends, but isn’t losing sleep over it.

“I’m not worrying about it, nor does anybody in my firm,” he said. “Look, marriage is an institution and it’s never going to go away. There’s a constitutional right in our country to be married. There are Supreme Court of the United States cases dealing with the right to marriage. I have a bunch of kids; all of them are married.”

robert stephan cohen

Cohen said his team handles roughly 50 prenups per year, as well as a number of postnuptial agreements. He also confirmed that the so-called gray divorce trend the Gates’ divorce has highlighted is one he sees in his practice, so there’s plenty of business for him.

Cohen’s clients, much like himself, are working longer and living longer. In some cases, they’re divorcing later.

“When you were 60 in the olden days, you stopped working, you were retired, you were on a pension. Maybe if you were lucky, you got a small place in a warm climate,” he said. “It’s way different now – at 60, you’re vital, you’re working, and your career is ahead of you, not behind you.”

Even when a divorce case he’s working on turns nasty, Cohen said he sleeps very well at night.

“There’s the bad part, the destruction of a marriage. But the other side of this is we start people out and we give them a new life,” he said. “It sort of makes what I do a lot nicer sometimes – when I smile and think about the gift that we give to people.”

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Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and Away’s Jen Rubio just had their first child together. Here are 13 other power couples who rule the tech world.

Evan Spiegel Miranda Kerr
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and wife Miranda Kerr.

  • Slack’s Stewart Butterfield and Away’s Jen Rubio just had their first child together.
  • They’re among over a dozen other leaders in the tech industry in relationships with powerful people.
  • Some, like Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott, and Bill and Melinda Gates, have recently split up.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the singer Grimes, Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s girlfriend, might say, we appreciate power.

While some tech leaders, like Mark Zuckerberg, have been with their partners since college, notable figures in the tech sector have gravitated toward partners with just as much – or more! – power and pull in their industries.

Some are becoming new parents: This month, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and Jen Rubio, the CEO of luggage startup Away, announced the birth of their first child together. The couple got engaged in May 2019, but postponed a planned wedding in Peru after the pandemic hit.

Others, sadly, have broken up: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, now MacKenzie Scott, announced in early 2019 that they were getting a divorce. And one of the most famous power couples in the world, Bill and Melinda Gates, are now headed for divorce as well.

Still, there are 14 other notable couples that hail from Silicon Valley who are still going strong.

Jen Rubio and Stewart Butterfield

Who they are: Rubio is the CEO of luggage startup Away, and Butterfield in the cofounder and CEO of work messaging platform Slack.

Their backstory: The relationship between Rubio and Butterfield initially flew under the radar, but it came under the spotlight in May 2019 when Butterfield jokingly proposed to Rubio on Twitter. Butterfield’s Twitter proposal followed news that Away had landed a $1.4 billion valuation, and the Slack CEO joked he wasn’t “just a goldigger.”

Butterfield and Rubio both acknowledged the proposal was a joke after a few hours. They got engaged for real that Memorial Day and announced the birth of their first child together, Oliver, in May 2021.

Emily Weiss and Will Gaybrick

So, a week ago, we got engaged. (!) Even during the wildest most uncertain times, there are silver linings. ❤️

A post shared by Emily Weiss (@emilyweiss) on Mar 18, 2020 at 10:25pm PDT

Who they are: Weiss is the cofounder and CEO of online makeup company Glossier. Gaybrick is the chief product officer at payments platform Stripe. Glossier is valued at more than $1 billion, while Stripe is the most valuable US startup with a valuation of $95 billion

Their backstory: Not a whole lot about their relationship has been shared publicly. The couple made their relationship public in an Instagram post from New Years Day of 2019, then announced their engagement in a post in March 2020

“Even during the wildest most uncertain times, there are silver linings,” Weiss wrote in the caption for the Instagram photo. Their engagement came just as the World Health Organization classified the coronavirus as a “pandemic.”

Evan Spiegel and Miranda Kerr

evan spiegel miranda kerr

Who they are: Spiegel is the cofounder and CEO of Snap Inc., Snapchat’s parent company. Kerr was, at one time, one of the highest-earning models in the world, and is currently the founder of wellness company KORA Organics.

Their backstory: The couple started dating in 2015, and got married in May 2017. They have one son, Hart, who was born in May 2018, and another son, Myles, who was born in October 2019. Kerr also has a son, Flynn, from her previous relationship with actor Orlando Bloom.

Sergey Brin and Nicole Shanahan

sergey brin nicole shanahan

Who they are: Brin is the cofounder of Google. Shanahan is the founder of law-tech company ClearAccessIP and the Bia-Echo Foundation.

Their backstory: The couple has been linked since 2015, when they were seen together at the star-studded wedding for a dating app CEO in Jamaica. The couple reportedly have a baby girl together who was born in late 2018, although they’ve kept information about their child under wraps. Brin has two other children from his previous marriage to 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki.

It was revealed in October 2019 that Brin and Shanahan have been married since 2018, but there were no other details made public about the wedding.

Karlie Kloss and Joshua Kushner

josh kushner karlie kloss

Who they are: Kushner is the founder of venture capital firm Thrive Capital and is the cofounder of health insurance startup Oscar Health. Kloss is a prominent model who runs coding camps for young girls called Kode with Klossy.

Their backstory: Kloss and Kushner reportedly started dating in 2012. The couple got married in October 2018 in a small ceremony, then got married again in June 2019 on a ranch in Wyoming. In March, the couple announced the birth of their first child, Levi. 

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

Who they are: Zuckerberg is the CEO and cofounder of Facebook. Chan is a former pediatrician. Together, the couple launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropy focused on science and education.

Their backstory: Zuckerberg and Chan are college sweethearts — they met in 2003 while they were students at Harvard University. In May 2012, the day after Facebook went public, they got married in a surprise ceremony. The couple has two daughters together, Max and August, who were born in 2015 and 2017.

Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian

Serena Williams. right, and husband Alexis Ohanian

Who they are: Ohanian is the cofounder of Reddit, and later cofounded the VC firm Initialized Capital. Williams is one of the best tennis players in the world, and ranks third on the all-time list of most winning players with 39 major tournament titles. In 2014, Williams launched her own investment firm, Serena Ventures, to invest in companies like Billie, Tonal, and Daily Harvest.

Their backstory: The couple met in May 2015 in Rome, and started dating that same year. They got engaged at the end of 2016 at the same place in Rome where they had first met. Williams gave birth to the couple’s daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, in 2017, and they got married later that year.

Marissa Mayer and Zachary Bogue

marissa mayer zach bogue

Who they are: Mayer is the former CEO of Yahoo, and the cofounder of software company Sunshine. Prior to Yahoo, she was Google’s 20th employee. Bogue is a cofounder and managing partner at the investment firm DCVC.

Their backstory: The couple met through a mutual friend in 2007, and got married two years later. Mayer announced her first pregnancy in 2012 on the same day she was publicly named Yahoo’s CEO. She gave birth to identical twin girls in 2015.

Marc Benioff and Lynne Benioff

marc benioff lynne benioff

Who they are: Marc Benioff is the founder and CEO of enterprise cloud company Salesforce. Lynne Benioff is a notable philanthropist who serves on the board of the nonprofit ONE, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, the Benioff Ocean Initiative, and others.

Their backstory: The Benioffs were married in 2006, although details of their Hawaiian wedding were kept under wraps. In 2018, the couple bought Time Magazine together for $190 million.

Dave Morin and Brit Morin

dave morin brit morin

Who they are: David Morin helped to create Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect, and cofounded Path, a now-defunct photo-based platform. He’s currently an investor with VC firm Offline Ventures. Brit Morin is the founder of Brit + Co., a popular lifestyle media company for millennial women.

Their backstory: The pair first met when they both were working at Apple years ago. They got engaged in 2011 after an elaborate proposal set in the Maldives, and got married the following year.

Kevin Hartz and Julia Hartz

Julia and Keith Hartz

Who they are: Kevin Hartz and Julia Hartz cofounded the ticketing company Eventbrite in 2006. He is currently a chairman at the company, while she serves as CEO.

Their backstory: The couple met back in 2003 at a mutual friend’s wedding. In a 2012 interview with Business Insider, Julia Hartz said that “we knew we wanted to start a company together before we lived together.” The pair got married in 2006, and now have two children.

Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg

Barry Diller Diane Von Furstenberg

Who they are: Diller founded the Internet company IAC in 1995, and now serves as a chairman for that company and for Expedia. Furstenberg is a lauded fashion designer who first rose to fame after marrying into a royal German family.

Their backstory: The couple got married in 2001, but have had an on-and-off relationship and friendship that’s spanned more than 40 years. They first met in the 1970s at a party Diller was hosting.

Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston

paul graham jessica livingston y combinator

Who they are: Graham and Livingston helped found Y Combinator, a wildly successful startup accelerator program that’s produced companies like Dropbox, Airbnb, and Stripe.

Their backstory: The pair started Y Combinator in 2005 while they were already dating. They got married in 2008, and now have two sons.

Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum

Diane Greene
Diane Greene, CEO of the Google Cloud Platform.

Who they are: Greene and Rosenblum both helped found the cloud computing software company VMware in 1998. They also cofounded the cloud startup Bebop, which Google acquired in 2015. Greene was put in charge of Google’s cloud computing unit, and later sat on Alphabet’s board of directors. Greene is now chairman of the MIT Corporation, which is Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s board of trustees.

Their backstory: The couple met while attending the University of California, Berkeley, when Rosenblum gave Greene a ride on his motorcycle. They have two children together.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why you should try Melinda Gates’ ‘word of the year’ strategy instead of setting big, lofty goals

Melinda French Gates
Melinda French Gates.

  • Big, lofty goals can be demotivating – try focusing on how you want to feel in the moment instead.
  • Melinda Gates does this by choosing a ‘word of the year’ instead of making New Year’s resolutions.
  • Gates says focusing her attention on the moment creates more powerful change than a long-term goal.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Those who dream big dreams are often advised to set big goals. But there are a few big problems with big goals. First, they can be demotivating. People stumble and give up hope, or feel their destination is too far away to even attempt to reach.

Second, big goals can actually turn into distracting daydreams, science shows. Rather than do the hard work that’s required to reach their aims, people imagine their fabulous future and actually end up less hungry to make it happen in reality.

Finally, big goals often take a long time to achieve. By the time we reach our destination, we’ve changed so much that we no longer even want whatever it is we’ve been working so hard for.

So what works better than big, fixed, long-term goals? Melinda Gates and others, including some of the world’s happiest people, offer the same suggestions, and you’re going to love how simple they are.

Read more: Coaches, founders, and executives share how they’re setting goals this year

Why you need a ‘word of the day’

Writing on Fast Company recently, Michelle Wax, the founder of the American Happiness Project, explained the lessons she learned from interviewing 500 exceptionally happy people. Among her takeaways was the immense value of a “words to live by list.”

“Often, people think once you achieve a life goal, you’ll achieve long-term happiness, but that wasn’t the case for the majority of people I spoke with. For them, happiness was a muscle they needed to continuously exercise and reevaluate,” Wax wrote.

Rather than rely just on big, distant goals, the super joyful focused on how they wanted to feel and behave in the moment. “List a handful of words that embody the emotions and experiences you want to be feeling,” Wax instructed. “Once you have your list, you can start to shift your activities, thoughts, and content to align with those words.”

Process beats vision.

As soon as I read this advice, it struck me that I’d heard it before, and not just from some extremely cheerful friend. Melinda French Gates, the billionaire philanthropist and soon-to-be ex-wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, once made a very similar point though in a different context.

As Gates explained a few years ago on LinkedIn, she’s not a big fan of the subset of goals known as New Year’s resolutions. Instead, she sets herself a “word of the year.” Previous choices include grace, spacious, and gentle. Each “encapsulates my aspirations for the twelve months ahead,” she wrote.

Like the exceptionally happy folks Wax spoke to, Gates believes focusing her attention on the feelings she wants to experience moment to moment is a more powerful way to change her behavior than a long-term goal. Gates, for instance, recalled her touchstone word grace “during difficult conversations, long days at the office, busy trips with our foundation. … When I was upset or distressed, I whispered it to myself: ‘Grace.'”

While it can be hard to translate distant goals into daily behavior, a word of the day (or year) or personal mantra of some kind is always there to help you make sure your conduct lines up with your values and aspirations. And as “Atomic Habits” author James Clear points out, when it comes to achieving great things, a focus on the daily process will get you further than a focus on the end goal itself.

Or to put that more concretely, setting yourself the goal of writing a book can be stressful, vague, or overwhelming. Repeating the mantra “write” to yourself each day is more likely to keep you pumping out pages. Eventually you just may have a book.

So if your big goals don’t seem to be getting you far, consider taking the advice of Gates, Clear, and a bunch of happy folks and swap them for touchstone words instead.

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Melinda Gates’ divorce lawyer has joined a bitter legal battle between Connecticut’s state senator and her Morgan Stanley exec husband

Melinda Gates speaking
Melinda French Gates.

  • Melinda Gates’ divorce attorney Robert Cohen has joined a new legal battle.
  • The case involves a divorce between Connecticut’s Sen. and her Morgan Stanley executive husband.
  • Cohen has previously represented the first two wives of former President Donald Trump.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A divorce attorney hired by Melinda French Gates has also been snapped up by Connecticut’s state Sen. Alex Kasser, according to CNBC. It follows Kasser’s separation from Seth Bergstein, a Morgan Stanley executive.

Robert Cohen, the divorce attorney, previously represented ex-President Donald Trump’s first two wives, Ivana Trump and Marla Maples. He works as a founding partner at the New York City firm Cohen Clair Lans Greifer Thorpe & Rottenstreich LLP, as Insider reported.

Morgan Stanley employees are likely to be drawn into the saga, following a ruling that allowed Kasser’s lawyers to interrogate three staffers under oath.

The decision relates to what they see as the bank’s illegitimate efforts to get personal financial information from Kasser even as Bergstein, continues to work there, as CNBC reports.

Many accusations in that row have sprung from a bitter case that was filed more than two years ago when Kasser split from Bergstein, per CNBC.

Commenting on Cohen’s expertise, Marilyn Chinitz, whose own matrimonial clientele included actors like Tom Cruise and Michael Douglas, told CNBC: “He’s a fantastic lawyer.” She also described him as “talented and aggressive.”

French Gates, meanwhile, is apparently winning the public opinion battle, as Insider reported.

Following the announcement that the couple were ending their 27-year marriage “after a great deal of thought,” many media reports have raised questions about Bill Gates’ workplace conduct.

In one case, several unnamed Microsoft employees told The New York Times Gates’ behavior made them feel uncomfortable at work.

Insider reported that Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella has addressed the issue, by saying that the “Microsoft of 2021 is very different from the Microsoft of 2000.”

In the same report, a spokesperson for Bill Gates said in a statement that allegations the billionaire mistreated employees were false, and that he had an affair 20 years ago that ended amicably. The spokesperson did not say whether the affair was with a Microsoft employee.

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Bill Gates reportedly transferred another $850 million in shares to Melinda, taking total transfers since their divorce to nearly $4 billion

2021 05 03T214707Z_584346641_RC2L8N95S48I_RTRMADP_3_PEOPLE BILL GATES DIVORCE.JPG
Bill and Melinda Gates are divorcing after 27 years of marriage.

  • Bill Gates transferred $850 million in shares to Melinda French Gates last week, the Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The reported transfer of shares in the equipment manufacturer Deere equates to around 7% of Gates’ stake in the company.
  • French Gates has now received nearly $4 billion worth of stock from Gates since their divorce announcement.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bill Gates has transferred $850 million more in shares to Melinda French Gates amid the couple’s divorce, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

The Microsoft co-founder transferred 2.25 million shares of equipment manufacturer Deere, brand name John Deere, to French Gates through his investment firm, Cascade Investment LLC, on Thursday, according to a securities filing seen by the Journal.

The total value of publicly disclosed transfers to French Gates now adds up to nearly $4 billion worth of stock since the pair announced their split, after 27 years of marriage, on May 3.

The reported Deere transfer equates to around 7% of Gates’s stake in the company.

Gates and Cascade Investment still owned nearly 29.3 million shares – 9.3% of the company – after the $850 million transfer to French Gates, the security filings said, per the Journal.

Cascade Investment didn’t immediately reply to Insider’s request for comment. The holding company also declined to comment beyond the filings to the Journal.

Insider reported on May 7 that three stocks worth a combined $3 billion were transferred to French Gates after the couple’s divorce announcement. These stocks included 2.9 million shares of automotive retailer AutoNation, 14.1 million shares of Canadian National Railway, and 293.5 million shares of media company Grupo Televisa.

Other stocks that French Gates could receive from Cascade Investment include Republic Services and Ecolab, which are heavily owned positions at the holding company.

The couple’s net worth is around $130.5 billion, according to Forbes.

The news of the Deere transfers comes two days after The New York Times reported that Gates pursued women at Microsoft while he was married to French Gates.

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Bill Gates spotted for the first time since his split from Melinda in an Instagram picture with his daughter Jennifer

Bill Gates and Jennifer Gates
Bill Gates and Jennifer Gates attend Global Champions Tour of Monaco at Port de Hercule in Monte-Carlo, Monaco, on June 30, 2018.

  • Bill Gates appeared on his daughter Jennifer’s Instagram story on Thursday evening.
  • The picture is the first of the billionaire since announcing his divorce to his wife, Melinda Gates.
  • “Nothing better than quality time with family members,” Jennifer, 25, captioned the image.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bill Gates appeared on his eldest daughter’s Instagram story on Thursday evening, making his first appearance since announcing his divorce from wife Melinda Gates.

“Nothing better than quality time with family members,” Jennifer, 25, captioned the image, which is no longer on her story but can be seen here.

In the photo, a smiling Gates stands with his arm around his daughter, wearing shorts and a blue polo shirt. It is unclear where the photo was taken.

Read more: How the CEO of a Bill Gates-backed battery startup convinced the tech mogul to invest in his solid-state tech

Bill and Melinda announced their divorce on May 3, saying in a joint statement: “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

They were married for 27 years of marriage and had three kids together.

It’s unclear what the main causes of the split were but a source told People Magazine the couple wanted to wait until their youngest daughter turned 18 before they announced the divorce.

Reports have suggested that Melinda Gates sought divorce lawyers in 2019, about the same time as Gates’ ties with Jeffrey Epstein surfaced.

Gates was at his $12.5 million mansion at The Vintage Club in California when news of his divorce broke, a source told Page Six this week. He had been staying at the exclusive golf resort for three months, the source said.

This is not the first time Jennifer has shared her thoughts on her family on Instagram.

Shortly after the divorce announcement, the 25-year-old posted another story that read: “It’s been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family. I’m still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as my family members at this time and am grateful for the space to do so.”

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Melinda Gates reportedly sought out divorce lawyers in 2019 when news of Bill Gates’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein surfaced. Here’s how the two men were connected.

bill gates jeffrey epstein
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein.

  • Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein met multiple times since 2011.
  • Melinda Gates reportedly said she was uncomfortable with Epstein and his ties to her husband.
  • Gates said in 2019 that he met Epstein but did not have “any business relationship or friendship with him.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Melinda and Bill Gates stunned the world last week when they announced they were ending their 27-year marriage.

But according to The Wall Street Journal, the decision wasn’t out of the blue – Melinda Gates began speaking with divorce lawyers in 2019, the same year that the New York Times reported her husband and Jeffrey Epstein had met multiple times.

Here’s how the convicted sex offender and the Microsoft cofounder were connected.

Bill Gates and Epstein reportedly first met in 2011 in New York City

The first meeting came three years after Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from an underage girl and became a registered sex offender, and later spent 13 months in jail.

The pair met to discuss philanthropic ideas at Epstein’s Manhattan residence in 2011 after Epstein aggressively worked to meet the Microsoft co-founder, the New York Times reported in 2019, citing documents and interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with the relationship between the two men. According to the Times, Bill Gates stayed late at Epstein’s apartment, and Epstein’s former girlfriend and her 15-year-old daughter were also present.

Bill Gates wrote an email to his colleagues later that year about how Epstein’s “lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me,” the Times reported. A spokeswoman for Gates told the Times that the email was referring to Epstein’s “unique decor” and spontaneous way of inviting acquaintances to meet his guests.

Sources recently told The Daily Beast that the meeting still haunts Melinda Gates. Bill Gates and Epstein met another time in 2011 and were photographed with a senior JP Morgan executive and the science adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates told The Journal in 2019 that he had met Epstein but said he did not have “any business relationship or friendship with him.” Gates made the comments after his meetings with the convicted sex offender surfaced.

Bill Gates met Epstein again in 2013, this time joined by Melinda Gates

The trio met at Epstein’s New York City mansion. Shortly after, Melinda Gates told her husband that said she was uncomfortable with Epstein and was furious about Bill Gates’s relationship with him, according to the Journal. Despite the warning, Bill Gates and other associates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation maintained ties with Epstein, the Journal reported.

Read more: How the ultrarich avoid messy public divorce battles by keeping their disputes out of court

Bill Gates also reportedly flew with Epstein on his private jet, dubbed “Lolita Express,” from New Jersey to Florida in 2013, according to the New York Times. Bill Gates denied to The Journal in 2019 that he went to Florida or to party functions with Epstein.

Bill Gates donated $2 million to MIT’s media lab in 2014, a donation that Epstein reportedly facilitated

Joi Ito, the MIT media lab’s former director, said in an email obtained by The New Yorker that Epstein guided Bill Gates into making a $2 million contribution.

The monetary gift came from bgC3, which has been renamed Gates Ventures, Bill Gates’ venture capital firm, according to Axios.

“This is a $2M gift from Bill Gates directed by Jeffrey Epstein,” reads the internal email, per the New Yorker’s report. The lab accepted the donation despite Epstein’s sex offender charges. Ito announced he was resigning the day after The New Yorker story was published.

In a statement to the outlet, a Gates spokesperson said “any claim that Epstein directed any programmatic or personal grantmaking for Bill Gates is completely false.”

Epstein later lamented to a friend towards the end of 2014 that Bill Gates had cut off communication with him, a source told the NYT.

Some of Gates’s colleagues also knew Epstein

Nathan Myhrvold Sun Valley
Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold was reportedly friends with Epstein.

Some of Bill Gates’s current and former colleagues at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had ties with Epstein.

Melanie Walker, a Gates Foundation employee from 2005 to 2013, knew Epstein since 1992, according to The Daily Beast. She served as his science advisor in 1998.

Walker introduced Epstein to Boris Nikolic, who was the Gates Foundation’s science advisor at the time, The Daily Beast reported. Epstein would later name Nikolic a backup executor of his will, a role he told Bloomberg he was not consulted on and quickly rejected.

Linda Stone, who served as a Microsoft executive from 1993 to 2002, reportedly knew Epstein and introduced him to Ito, the former MIT media lab director.

“He has a tainted past, but Linda assures me that he’s awesome,” Ito said in an internal email, according to The Daily Beast.

Epstein was also reportedly friends with Nathan Myhrvold, the former CTO of Microsoft who spent 14 years at the company, according to Vanity Fair.

A spokesperson for Myhrvold told Vanity Fair at the time, “Nathan has no knowledge of or any involvement in the various crimes that Mr. Epstein is accused of committing. He was never a client of his money management business, and he’s never done business with him of any sort. Back in the day Epstein was a regular at TED conferences and he was a large donor to basic scientific research, so while Nathan knew him and has socialized with him, that’s exactly where their association ends.”

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Bill Gates is reportedly hiding out in his mansion at a billionaires’ golf club in California that costs $250,000 to join

Bill Gates attends Global Champions Tour of Monaco at Port de Hercule on June 30, 2018 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.
Bill Gates attends Global Champions Tour of Monaco at Port de Hercule on June 30, 2018 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.

  • Bill Gates has been at an exclusive California golf course since his divorce news broke, a source told Page Six.
  • The source said Gates has been at his $12.5 million mansion at The Vintage Club for three months.
  • Gates was seen at the club with his daughter, Jennifer Gates, and her partner, the source said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bill Gates has been at a luxury country club in California where he owns a mansion since the news of his divorce with Melinda Gates broke, a source told Page Six on Tuesday.

The couple, who have been married for 27 years and have three children, announced on May 3 that they were going to split up.

The 65-year-old billionaire has been laying low in his multi million-dollar house at The Vintage Club in Indian Wells for a few months, according to the source.

“Bill clearly saw this divorce coming for a long time because he’s been there for around three months,” the source told Page Six, part of the New York Post.

The Microsoft founder was spotted at the luxury golf and country club with his 25-year-old daughter Jennifer Gates and her partner, Nayel Nassar, an Egyptian millionaire and show jumper, according to the source.

“It is the perfect place for Bill to hide out from anyone who wants to question him about his divorce or his alleged ties to Epstein,” the source said.

Gates bought a huge six-bed mansion at The Vintage Club for $12.5 million in 1990, according to a Forbes report.

On its website, the club describes itself as “one of the United States’ most prestigious and ultra-exclusive private country club communities.”

The club, which costs $250,000 to join, is a members-only country club where high-profile people such as businessmen Charles Koch, Philip Anshultz, and Dennis Washington go to enjoy luxury properties and play golf. The club has two championship golf courses, a spa, restaurants, and tennis courts.

The Vintage Club’s current real-estate listings range from $755,000 for a Hacienda-style cottage to upwards of $17 million for a custom home.

The couple’s divorce has taken the world by surprise, but Melinda Gates was reportedly speaking to divorce lawyers in 2019. She described the marriage as “irretrievably broken” in divorce filings.

A source told The New York Times on Sunday that Melinda’s body language when she appeared in public alongside Bill suggested their relationship had been on the rocks for a while. Reports also suggested that the pair wanted to wait until their youngest daughter, Phoebe, turned 18 before they divorced.

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