Bill Gates investigated over affair with colleague months before he left Microsoft board

·3-min read
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates - REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates - REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Bill Gates has admitted to having an affair with a colleague at Microsoft, and stepped down from the company’s board as they investigated his behaviour.

An external law firm was hired to address concerns raised by the woman, who was offered “extensive support,” Microsoft said, as further questions about Mr Gates’ workplace conduct have been raised.

The affair, which started in 2000 and lasted several years, was brought to the attention of the company in late 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Mr Gates resigned from the board in March 2020. He had only been re-elected to his seat three months earlier, but left while still under investigation, the paper added. The result of the probe has not been made public.

Mr Gates, 65 and his wife Melinda, 56, are currently engaged in divorce proceedings, with their marriage “irretrievably broken,” according to court documents.

It is not clear how much Ms French Gates was aware of Mr Gates' pursuit of other women - AFP
It is not clear how much Ms French Gates was aware of Mr Gates' pursuit of other women - AFP

The couple first met in 1987 when he was running Microsoft and she started work there as a product manager, a year after leaving university.

They married in Hawaii, in 1994, but in the following years, the tech billionaire allegedly made a number of advances towards female colleagues in the workplace, according to allegations made in the New York Times.

One one occasion he allegedly sent a woman an email asking her out for dinner after attending a presentation she gave.

“If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” he wrote, according to the paper.

It did make her uncomfortable, the New York Times said. Mrs Gates is also reported to have raised concerns about her husband’s relationship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Mr Gates, worth nearly $150 billion, met with the disgraced financier on multiple occasions, even posing for a photo at the New York townhouse where Epstein was accused of abusing young girls.

James E. Staley, at the time a senior JPMorgan executive; former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers; Mr. Epstein; Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder; and Boris Nikolic, who was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s science adviser  - New York Times
James E. Staley, at the time a senior JPMorgan executive; former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers; Mr. Epstein; Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder; and Boris Nikolic, who was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s science adviser - New York Times

While Mr Gates has not been accused of any wrongdoing, his friendship with Epstein was a “source of concern” for his wife, 56, a former employee of the Gates Foundation told the Wall Street Journal.

She first contacted divorce lawyers in October 2019, the paper said.

A spokeswoman for Mr Gates said in 2019: “Bill Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognises it was an error in judgment to do so.”

On Monday, she added: “The rumours and speculation surrounding Gates’ divorce are becoming increasingly absurd and it’s unfortunate that people who have little to no knowledge of the situation are being characterised as ‘sources.’

“The claim of mistreatment of employees is also false.”

A Microsoft spokesperson told the Telegraph: “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.”

Melinda Gates at an AOL event in March 2015 - WireImage
Melinda Gates at an AOL event in March 2015 - WireImage

Mr Gates’ spokeswoman added: “There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably. 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.”

Mr Gates, who founded Microsoft in 1975, stepped down as the company's CEO in 2000, saying he wanted to focus on his charitable foundation. He left his full-time role at the company in 2008 but retained a seat on the board until last year.

In a statement released last March, Mr Gates said he would be able “to dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change.”

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