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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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January 17, 2008 1:00 PM

Fortune's must-read profile of Melinda Gates

Posted by Brier Dudley

Fortune's terrific Jan. 21 cover story offers buckets of details about Bill Gates' better half and the role she's played in the evolution of the foundation, Bill and even Microsoft.

Choice bits include Warren Buffett -- who was part of the suprise engagement sprung on Melinda -- speculating about whether he'd have donated the bulk of his fortune the Gates Foundation if Melinda wasn't there:

"Would Buffett have given the Gates Foundation his fortune if Melinda were not in the picture? 'That's a great question,' he replies. 'And the answer is, I'm not sure.' "

The story relates how Melinda would probably be a top executive at Microsoft now, despite the failure of her Microsoft Bob project.

It also includes candid, personal views of her husband that are rarely published (the three interviews Fortune received for the story paid off ...) and captured his jocular side:

Friends of the couple say that he wouldn't be shifting gears if it weren't for Melinda. Moreover, they say, she has helped Bill become more open, patient, and compassionate. "Bullshit!" he bellows. Nicer, perhaps? "No way!" he shouts, grinning because he knows it's true. One thing he admits readily: Thanks to Melinda, he is easing comfortably into his new role. About the philanthropic work he says, "I don't think it would be fun to do on my own, and I don't think I'd do as much of it."

But it's really about Melinda, her drive and her commitment to the work of the foundation.

The goal in granting Fortune all that access might have been to communicate how her accomplishments are the result of her focus, drive and vision.

Yet with all the glamourous details and quotes from Bono and Bill Clinton, it's also a real-life fairy tale that ends with her emergence as a benevolent queen helping those who need it most.

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