Behind the scenes

Bill Gates quit Microsoft after ‘inappropriate’ sexual relationship claim

Company’s board launched investigation into alleged affair between the billionaire and an employee

Bill Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board while being investigated over claims that he had an “inappropriate” relationship with a staff member, it has emerged.

Members of the board “hired a law firm to conduct an investigation in late 2019” after a “Microsoft engineer alleged in a letter that she had a sexual relationship over years” with her billionaire boss, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports.

During the probe, “some board members decided it was no longer suitable” for Gates to remain as director of the company he founded in 1975, the paper continues. But according to a “person familiar with the matter”, he “resigned before the board’s investigation was completed and before the full board could make a formal decision on the matter”.

A spokesperson for Gates told the WSJ that “there was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably”.

However, his “decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter,” the spokesperson said. “In fact, he had expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy starting several years earlier.”

Microsoft has confirmed that an investigation was launched. A spokesperson told Sky News that the company had “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,” the representative continued. “Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern.”

The disclosure comes just weeks after Gates announced that he and his wife of 27 years, Melinda, were divorcing. In a joint statement posted on Twitter, the former couple gave no explanation for their separation beyond saying that “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives”.

Allegations of an affair follow suggestions from insider sources that Melinda was also concerned about her husband’s dealings with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

In April, Gates told the WSJ that he “didn’t have any business relationship or friendship” with the the disgraced financier, who committed suicide in prison in August 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking.

But The New York Times reported earlier this month that “beginning in 2011”, Gates “met with Epstein on numerous occasions”, and that the pair also discussed a potential charitable venture. 

A source subsequently told People Magazine that “Epstein is definitely a sore spot” for Melinda and that her concerns about her husband’s relationship with the convicted paedophile dated back to those first meetings. “That’s a long time for issues to fester,” the source added.

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