Bill Gates (archive image):
Photo: YURI GRIPAS / REUTERS
After investigating an affair between Bill Gates and an employee, Microsoft's board of directors apparently decided in 2020 that the company's founder should no longer be on the board.
The "Wall Street Journal" reports, citing anonymous sources.
At the beginning of May it became known that Gates and his wife Melinda are getting divorced after 27 years of marriage.
According to the report, in 2019 the board of directors hired a law firm to investigate after a staff member wrote a letter about a long-term sexual relationship with Gates.
The billionaire had withdrawn from the board of directors before the report was completed.
A spokeswoman for Gates confirmed to the newspaper that there had been an affair almost 20 years ago that ended "amicably".
The withdrawal from the company is "in no way related to this matter."
Microsoft told the Associated Press that it had heard in the second half of 2019 of concerns that "Bill Gates wanted to establish an intimate relationship with a company employee in 2000." A committee of the board of directors with the support of an external law firm initiated a "thorough investigation". "Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern."
According to a report in the New York Times, Gates is also said to have developed a "reputation for questionable behavior in the work environment." He has repeatedly approached women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill-and-Melinda-Gates Foundation run with his wife. Among other things, Gates invited an employee to dinner after listening to one of her lectures. "If you're uncomfortable with this, pretend it never happened," Gates wrote to the woman, according to an email read to the newspaper.
In-house, Gates' behavior apparently sparked many conversations about his private life.
According to the New York Times, several employees said they had found the behavior inappropriate.
However, Gates did not give the impression that women could face negative consequences if they do not respond to his advances.
Divorce over relationship with Epstein?
According to the report, Gates' relationship with the financial manager and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein also caused tension with his wife Melinda.
This had already expressed concerns in 2013 after a joint dinner with Epstein.
When the meetings between Gates and Epstein became public in 2019, Melinda Gates was dissatisfied and hired divorce lawyers shortly afterwards.
According to the New York Times, Gates' handling of allegations of harassment against his long-time finance manager Michael Larson also causes conflicts. The person concerned had approached the Gates through a lawyer, and an agreement was reached that included a non-disclosure agreement. While Bill Gates considered the matter settled, Melinda Gates is said to have successfully requested an external investigation. The result is unclear, Larson is still in office and did not want to comment on the matter.
A spokeswoman for the Microsoft founder said it was "extremely disappointing that so many untruths have been published about the cause, circumstances and processes of Bill Gates' divorce."
The portrayal of his meetings with Epstein were "inaccurate, also with regard to the participants," and "the claim that employees were mistreated was false," the spokeswoman said.
"Rumors and speculations surrounding Gates' divorce are becoming increasingly absurd, and it is unfortunate that people with little to no knowledge of the situation are labeled 'sources'".
dab / AP