Microsoft Corp. board members decided in 2020 that it was not acceptable for co-founder Bill Gates to remain on the board while they investigated the billionaire's previous improper romantic relationship with a female Microsoft employee, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
According to the report, citing undisclosed sources, board members investigating the matter retained a law firm to conduct an investigation in late 2019 after a Microsoft engineer said in a letter that she had a sexual relationship with Gates for several years.
"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,” a Microsoft spokesman is quoted in the report as saying. “A committee of the Board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm to conduct a thorough investigation. Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern.”
Gates reportedly resigned before the board's investigation was completed, another source familiar with the situation is quoted in the report as saying. When Gates stepped down from Microsoft's board of directors last year, he mentioned that he was doing so to concentrate on philanthropy.
"There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” an unnamed spokesperson for Gates told the newspaper, the "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 New York Times also reported earlier on Sunday that Gates had developed "a reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings." According to the report, Gates made overtures to women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on at least a few occasions, citing people who were familiar with his behavior.
Melinda is thought to be the one who applied for divorce on May 3, claiming that the marriage was "irretrievably broken" in the papers. However, the reasons for the split and the specifics of the breakup remain unknown, while media speculate that it could have been the alleged ties of Bill Gates to the late convicted pedophile and financier Jeffrey Epstein, whose acquaintance reportedly made Melinda "furious."