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Reports link Bill Gates' departure from Microsoft board in 2020 with probe into employee affair

Gates denies connection

The Microsoft board was conducting an investigation into Bill Gates' alleged "inappropriate" romantic relationship with a female Microsoft employee when he resigned in 2020, according to two investigative reports that appeared over the weekend.

The employee was not named and a Gates Ventures spokesperson denied the two incidents were linked, telling The Register that Gates' "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."

They also stated: "There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably."

A Microsoft spokesperson told The Reg:

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 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.

The first report in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, focused around Bill Gates' departure from the Microsoft board in March 2020.

The WSJ quoted sources saying the female engineer and Gates had had a relationship starting in 2000 that spanned years. They alleged the board became aware of the affair in late 2019, and started an investigation that year, when the employee reportedly shared details in a letter. A law firm was reportedly hired for an external investigation and Gates resigned before it was completed, citing his wish to focus on his philanthropy, the paper added.

Gates' resignation came three months after he was re-elected to the board seat and the same day he left the board of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. He continued to serve as a technical advisor at Microsoft.

A second report at the weekend, in the New York Times also detailed the 2019 investigation, and spoke to sources who alleged that Gates had a "reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings."

The NYT article went on to allege that the Microsoft co-founder regularly pursued women who worked for him at his foundation and software company. The publication described several of the alleged incidents in detail.

Responding to the report, a Gates Ventures rep told The Reg: "The claim of mistreatment of employees is also false," adding: "The rumors and speculation surrounding Gates’ divorce are becoming increasingly absurd."

Both this weekend's reports come just weeks after the announcement of the imminent divorce that will end Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates' 27-year marriage.

It was reported that, among other things, Melinda was concerned by her husband's dealings and meetings with wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died in August 2019. (In a statement two months after Epstein's death, Bill Gates' spokespeople said he "regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognizes it was an error in judgement to do so." Gates had donated $2m to an MIT lab via Epstein in 2014.)

Both Gates and French Gates shared the same statement on their Twitter accounts earlier this month.

The pair met in 1987. French Gates was a product manager for Microsoft, joining the company the year after she graduated college. They married in September 1994.

The WSJ said the pair have been discussing division of assets since 2020 with legal teams and mediators. Their fortune is estimated by Forbes to be $130bn.

French Gates and Gates have said they will remain co-chairs of the Gates Foundation and will donate most of their wealth to charity, including $36bn to the foundation.

So far, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts for Gates, French Gates, and the Gates Foundation have been silent about the matter. ®

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