Bill Gates’s spokeswoman has acknowledged that the billionaire had an affair at Microsoft almost 20 years ago but said it ended “amicably” and is not related to his decision to step down from the company’s board.
Members of the board at Microsoft pursued an investigation into the billionaire founder’s affair after they were informed of a letter sent by a female employee in 2019, alleging that she and Mr Gates had a sexual relationship over the years, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Several board members grew concerned, according to the report, and felt that Mr Gates should step down from leadership roles with the company while the investigation continued into the matter.
Mr Gates, who founded and led the tech firm from 1975, resigned from the board before the investigation could be completed and any decision could be made by members. He said he wanted to focus on his philanthropic foundation.
A Gates spokeswoman acknowledged in a statement to US media that “there was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably”.
She contended that the “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.”
A private law firm was hired to investigate the allegations by the woman. The woman had demanded changes to her job in the letter and said Mr Gates’s now-estranged wife should also read the letter.
“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,” said a Microsoft spokesman.
Once the wealthiest man in the world and still estimated to be worth nearly $130bn (£92bn), Mr Gates’ personal life has been making headlines since the announcement of his divorce, ending 27 years of marriage, with Melinda Gates.
Ms Gates had written in the court filing that the marriage was "irretrievably broken."
During the same period in 2019, several female employees at the software firm alleged sexual harassment and discrimination in an email chain that was reported by Quartz.
Following the report, top executives of the company said they would make changes in the process of handling their employee’s complaints.
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