Microsoft Corp. investigated co-founder Bill Gates’ involvement with an employee nearly two decades ago after being told in 2019 of his attempt to start a romantic relationship with this person.
The board has looked into the matter and conducted a “full investigation” with the help of an outside law firm, the software giant said. The investigation was unsuccessful because Gates had resigned before it was completed, Microsoft said.
“Microsoft received a concern in the second half of 2019 that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in 2000,” Microsoft said in a statement. “A board committee looked into the issue, assisted by an outside law firm, to conduct a thorough investigation. Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided full support to the employee who raised the issue. “
Dow Jones earlier reported that Microsoft directors found Gates’ involvement with the employee inappropriate and decided last year that he should step down from the board, citing people familiar with the matter who didn’t. had not been identified.
Microsoft did not provide further details on the investigation.
The billionaire said in March last year that he was stepping down from the board to devote more time to philanthropy. Gates has not been active in a daily role since 2008, Microsoft said at the time. Gates co-founded the software company in 1975 and served as its CEO until 2000, the same year its foundation was established, and was president until February 2014.
A spokeswoman for Gates said her decision to leave the board had nothing to do with an employee’s romantic involvement.
“There was an affair almost 20 years ago that ended amicably,” she said, adding that “her decision to leave the board was by no means linked to this case ”.
The belated investigation into the case came at a time marked by a wave of discussions at Microsoft about the treatment of women and Me-Too conversations in the industry at large. Since 2000, Microsoft has also put in place processes to investigate the allegations and revised them with the aim of strengthening them, the company said.
Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich resigned after the board was told he had a consensual relationship with a subordinate, even though that relationship ended years before and predated his appointment to the most senior position in the company. The board conducted investigations internally and through an outside lawyer to confirm the violation of company policies and made the announcement in June 2018.
Gates and Melinda French Gates announced their divorce earlier this month after 27 years of marriage. Several reports, including those that emerged over the weekend, said she had raised concerns about her relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The New York Times reported in 2019 that Gates had met Epstein on several occasions and once stayed late at his New York home. Epstein had died in prison two months earlier while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
The spokesperson for Gates denied the information. “The characterization of her encounters with Epstein and others on philanthropy is inaccurate,” she said. “The rumors and speculation surrounding Gates’ divorce are getting more and more absurd.”
While Gates’ relationship with Epstein is outside the scope of the Microsoft investigation, it has been discussed by some members of the board, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is not public.
The split also shed light on Gates’ fortune, valued at around $ 144 billion by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as well as their foundation.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest of its kind in the world. With more than 1,600 employees and offices around the world, it has already distributed more than $ 50 billion since its inception to causes such as vaccine development and women’s empowerment.
Last week, Cascade Investment, the investment firm created by Gates, transferred shares of Deere & Co. to his wife, bringing the total amount she has received since their divorce was announced to over $ 3 billion. of dollars.
The investment vehicle transferred around 2.25 million shares worth around $ 851 million, according to a regulatory filing. This follows similar disclosures related to Mexican companies Coca-Cola Femsa and Grupo Televisa and approximately $ 1.8 billion in shares of Canadian National Railways and AutoNation Inc.