Microsoft founder Bill Gates had an affair with an employee and stepped down from the company’s board during an investigation into the matter, according to multiple reports.
The tech giant today confirmed that it had launched a probe almost two years ago after receiving a complaint about Gates’ behaviour.
A spokesperson said the company had been told in 2019 that the billionaire had “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. Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern,” the statement said.
A spokesperson for Gates acknowledged the affair but insisted this had nothing to do with Gates’ decision to step down from the board.
“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably. Bill’s decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter,” the spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the investigation.
“In fact, he had expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy starting several years earlier.”
It comes just weeks after the tech founder announced he was separating from his wife Melinda French Gates after 27 years of marriage.
The pair, who are one of the world’s wealthiest couples, said in a joint statement that “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives”.
According to the report, Microsoft’s board was notified of the affair in a letter from a female engineer, who also asked for the letter to be shown to Melinda French Gates. It is not clear whether this happened.
Some board members were said to be concerned about how the affair would reflect on the company, but Gates stepped down before the investigation could be concluded.
Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and served as chief executive until 2000. In March last year he announced he was stepping down from the board to focus more on philanthropy.