Members of Microsoft’s board wanted to oust Bill Gates, the company’s founder, from the board over an alleged affair he had with a female employee, according to a new report.
Gates resigned from the board on March 13, 2020, three months after being re-elected to his seat at Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting. In late 2019, the board received a letter from a female employee alleging that she and Gates had a sexual relationship that lasted years. The company hired an outside law firm to investigate the matter, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“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 told the Journal. “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.”
Board members increasingly wanted Gates off the board, according to the report. They did not want the company led by a man with allegations of sexual misconduct against him in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Gates denied that the alleged affair and following investigation had anything to do with his exit from the company he launched in 1975 alongside his friend, Paul Allen. Gates later grew to become the face of the company and one of the most prominent people associated with Silicon Valley.
“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” a Gates spokeswoman told the Journal. “[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 Melinda French Gates announced their divorce earlier this month.
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” they said in a joint statement. “Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.”
“We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives,” they added. “We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
The Gates’ divorce was not a “friendly split,” a source close to the family said. Bill’s handling of a sexual harassment claim against his money manager, as well as his relationship with convicted sex offender and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, created deep rifts between him and Melinda, according to The New York Times.
Bill met with Epstein numerous times from 2011 to 2013, several years after Epstein was convicted of procuring a child for prostitution. Gates also took a ride on Epstein’s infamous private jet, the so-called “Lolita Express.”