Microsoft founder Bill Gates reportedly made numerous advances toward women employed at his computer company and his foundation.
Gates and his wife, Melinda, announced their intention to get a divorce earlier this month. Bill Gates’ reported pursuit of other women was one of several behaviors that strained his relationship with his wife to the breaking point, according to The New York Times.
“Multiple people said that during their marriage, Mr. Gates engaged in work-related behavior that they said was inappropriate for a person at the helm of a major publicly traded company and one of the world’s most influential philanthropies,” the Times reported.
In 2006, Gates asked a female Microsoft employee out to dinner over email after hearing her give a presentation earlier in the day. “If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Gates wrote in the email.
Gates made a pass at an employee with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a year or two later, asking her out to dinner at a cocktail party, saying “I want to see you. Will you have dinner with me?” The employee laughed at Gates to avoid answering his question directly.
The constant attempts at affairs earned Gates a reputation around Microsoft and the foundation. As the Times reports:
Six current and former employees of Microsoft, the foundation and the firm that manages the Gates’s fortune said those incidents, and others more recently, at times created an uncomfortable workplace environment. Mr. Gates was known for making clumsy approaches to women in and out of the office. His behavior fueled widespread chatter among employees about his personal life.
Gates spokeswoman Bridgitt Arnold denied that Gates ever mistreated his employees. Arnold also denied other reports surrounding Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender who died by suicide in August 2019.
“It is extremely disappointing that there have been so many untruths published about the cause, the circumstances and the timeline of Bill Gates’s divorce,” Arnold told the Times. “Your characterization of his meetings with Epstein and others about philanthropy is inaccurate, including who participated.”
“Similarly, any claim that Gates spoke of his marriage or Melinda in a disparaging manner is false. The claim of mistreatment of employees is also false,” Arnold added. “The rumors and speculation surrounding Gates’s divorce are becoming increasingly absurd, and it’s unfortunate that people who have little to no knowledge of the situation are being characterized as ‘sources.’”
Gates left Microsoft in March of last year as members of the company’s board reportedly wanted to push him out over an allegation he had a years-long affair with an employee beginning in 2000. The affair was outlined in a letter written by the employee and sent to the board in 2019, prompting the board to hire an outside law firm to conduct an internal investigation.
“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” a Gates representative said. “[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.”
Gates and his wife said in a joint announcement earlier this month that they intended to get a divorce because they can no longer “grow together as a couple.”