In 2000, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, had a sexual relationship with a female employee and resigned as the company board investigated the case. The adultery was revealed when a Microsoft employee detailed the affair in a letter to the board in 2019 and requested that the letter be read by Gates' estranged wife, Melinda Gates.
Bill Gates alleged affair detailed in a letter to the board
When the probe was still ongoing, Gates, 64, suddenly resigned from the board members in March 2020. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Microsoft board voted that Gates should resign after the relationship was deemed "inappropriate."
On the same day that Gates announced his resignation from Microsoft, he also announced his resignation from the board of Berkshire Hathaway, which is led by his friend Warren Buffet. In a press release, the tech billionaire said that he would continue to work as a technical adviser to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
"Microsoft received a concern in the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates attempted to pursue a romantic relationship with a business employee in the year 2000," a Microsoft spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal. Gates' decision to resign from the board had nothing to do with the controversy, added the spokesperson.
"Nearly 20 years ago, there was an affair that started amicably. His decision to transition off the board was in no way relevant to this issue," the spokeswoman told the Journal. He had expressed a desire to devote more time to his philanthropy many years before.
The revelations came just hours after a separate story in the New York Times reported that Bill Gates invited two women who worked at Microsoft and his philanthropic foundation out on dates while still married to Melinda. Melinda, who now goes by the name Melinda French Gates, was also dissatisfied with handling sexual harassment allegations against Michael Larson, one of Gates' top lieutenants and the man in charge of his fortune.
Bill and Melinda Gates, one of the world's wealthiest couples with a combined fortune of $130 billion, declared their divorce earlier this month, with Melinda stating in divorce papers that the union is "irretrievably broken."
According to the New York Times, Gates asked a Microsoft employee out in 2006 after seeing her give a presentation. Gates emailed the employee, "If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened," The Times reported. Bill Gates' advance did not materialize into anything physical, and the woman followed his advice.
The billionaire asked an employee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation out a few years back. The woman told the New York Times that the approach made her uneasy, but she laughed it off. According to the paper, there was no expectation that the women would face career consequences for rejecting Gates' advances.
Bill Gates' key lieutenant was also accused of sexual harassment
It's unclear if Melinda Gates was aware of her husband's advances when she approached him at Microsoft in the late 1980s, Daily Mail reported. Melinda also intervened after Michael Larsen, the man who oversaw the massive growth of Bill Gates' personal wealth through the Cascade Investment vehicle, was accused of sexual harassment.
A woman complained to Bill and Melinda Gates in 2017 that Larson was bullying a female employee at a bicycle shop run by the former married couple's investment capital company, Rally Capital. In 2018, the woman signed a non-disclosure deal and received a monetary settlement.
Melinda, on the other hand, was dissatisfied with the result and requested an independent probe. Larson was put on leave during the investigation but was returned and appears to lead Cascade Investments.
The reports about Gates' close links to Jeffrey Epstein, which took Melinda Gates off guard when they were first published in October 2019, seem to have been the turning point. Three years after Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor, the two became friends in 2011. After an unsettling encounter with convicted sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein in 2013, Melinda Gates warned her husband Bill of any more interaction.
According to people familiar with the situation, Gates' involvement with Epstein enraged Melinda Gates after the pair visited the predator's Upper East Side townhouse in September 2013. The encounter was a turning point in Bill's relationship with Epstein when Melinda Gates shared her discomfort with the sex abuser and stated that she didn't want anything to do with him, sources claim.