According to a new report, Microsoft
board members decided in 2020 that the company's co-founder, Bill Gates
, needed to resign from his own position on the board due to an investigation into a previous affair with a female Microsoft employee.
The Wall Street Journal
first reported on Sunday, citing people
familiar with the matter, that the company hired a law firm to investigate the claims after an engineer wrote a letter in 2019 detailing a prior relationship Gates had with a female employee. The company confirmed it opened what it called a “thorough investigation” at the time, but did not say whether it urged Gates to leave.
“In the latter half of 2019, Microsoft received a concern that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “A committee of the board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm, to conduct a thorough investigation.
Gates resigned from the board of directors, as well as the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway, in March 2020, stating that he did so in order to "dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities."
A Gates spokeswoman confirmed “there was an affair almost 20 years ago that ended amicably” in a statement to the Journal, but insisted Gates stepped down on his own accord.
“[His] decision to step down from the board had nothing to do with this matter,” the spokeswoman added, adding that “he had expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy for several years prior.”
The report comes after Bill and Melinda French Gates announced their divorce
earlier this month, saying they "no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives."
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Gates had a reputation at Microsoft for questionable behavior around women, citing people with knowledge of his behavior. According to the outlet, he occasionally pursued female employees, including one instance where he emailed a woman after a presentation to ask her out for dinner.
“If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” according to the email, which was read aloud to the Times.
The Times also added more details about Gates' tainted interactions with Jeffrey Epstein
, the disgraced financier charged with sex trafficking
of girls. The outlet published a story in 2019 noting the two men had flown together on Epstein's private jet and attended events at Epstein's townhouse, the details of which reportedly prompted Melinda Gates
to hire divorce lawyers.
The Times also stated that the details in its story were new to Melinda Gates. Gates has not been accused of any wrongdoing in relation to Epstein and has publicly stated that he regrets his contact with the man. A spokesperson for Gates told the paper on Sunday that Gates met with him solely to discuss his philanthropic pursuits.
Later that year, Epstein committed suicide
while in federal custody.