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Jeffrey Epstein's richest friend

Bill Gates
Bill Gates. Photo: Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein was a master of maximizing and leveraging proximity to wealth and power. While some of his associates certainly inherited their social status (like Robert Maxwell's daughter Ghislaine and Queen Elizabeth II's son PrinceAndrew), most of the time he went straight to the top of the family tree.

The big picture: After Epstein was convicted of sex crimes in 2008, his friendships with the rich and powerful continued unabated. In fact, his relationship with Bill Gates started in 2011.

  • A blockbuster New York Times investigation reveals that Gates and his associates regularly visited Epstein at his mansion in New York. That's in line with what we already knew about Gates flying on Epstein's jet and donating $2 million to MIT at Epstein's behest.
  • The NYT obtained a photograph from 2011, showing Gates and Epstein at the latter's mansion, alongside Jes Staley, who was at the time the chief executive of JPMorgan's investment bank. (He's now CEO of Barclays.)
  • Gates is accompanied by his then-science adviser, Boris Nikolic (on the far right of the photo), who was so close to Epstein that he was named as a fallback executor of Epstein's estate in his will — a position he has legally resigned.
  • Also in the photo is former Treasury Secretary and National Economic Council director Larry Summers, who at the time was expected to become the next Fed chair.

What we know: Epstein prided himself on collecting rich and powerful men like Staley, Summers and Gates. (Also on that list: Apollo CEO Leon Black.) Being well connected helped Epstein maintain his gilded and depraved lifestyle even after his conviction and imprisonment.

What we don't know: Why did the likes of Gates, Summers and Staley willingly consort with Epstein? They must have known they were risking serious reputational damage for themselves and for their institutions. Just imagine the firestorm that would have surrounded the Fed had Summers been chairman when Epstein was arrested earlier this year.

The bottom line: The children of politicians do need jobs in order to navigate life's waters, but people like Summers, Gates and Black do not. They're very big fish who have spent decades avoiding the unwanted attention of unsavory would-be remora.

  • When they're discovered swimming with the likes of Epstein, it's entirely reasonable to ask what exactly they were doing — and to keep on asking, repeatedly, even when they decide that their best response is simply stonewalling.