Bill Gates has denied that Microsoft’s investigation into an “intimate relationship” with an employee two decades ago had any impact on his decision to leave the software company’s board last year.
Following the announcement two weeks ago that Bill and Melinda Gates would divorce after 27 years of marriage, US media reported over the weekend Bill’s alleged approaches to female employees at both Microsoft and the couple’s charitable foundation.
Microsoft in 2019 began to review a “concern” about a relationship between Gates, its co-founder and former chief executive, and a company employee 20 years earlier.
“Microsoft received a concern in the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000,” Microsoft said in a statement on Monday. “A committee of the board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm to conduct a thorough investigation.”
The billionaire said in March 2020 that he would step down from Microsoft’s board to dedicate more time to philanthropy but would “continue to be engaged” with its chief executive Satya Nadella.
“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” a spokesperson for Gates said in a statement. “Bill’s decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter. In fact, he had expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy starting several years earlier.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported Microsoft’s investigation into the affair.
The New York Times reported that, following his marriage in 1994, Gates made advances to women at Microsoft and the Gates Foundation. Unnamed sources told the NYT that several women were made to feel “uncomfortable” by Gates’ approaches but that he did not put pressure on them.
Gates’ spokesperson said that any claims of “mistreatment of employees is also false”.
For the past two decades, Melinda and Bill Gates have run the world’s largest private charitable foundation, which has distributed $55bn since its launch in 2000.
The pair have ploughed much of their estimated $124bn fortune into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which seeks to enhance healthcare and reduce poverty around the world.
The couple will remain co-chairs and trustees of the foundation. No changes to their roles or the organisation are planned.