Microsoft Corp. board members decided that Bill Gates needed to step down from its board in 2020 as they initiated an investigation into Bill Gates in late 2019 after a female employee said she had a sexual relationship with him that spanned years, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
The board hired a law firm to conduct the investigation after the staffer came forward with the allegation. During the probe, some board members decided that it was no longer suitable for Mr Gates to sit as a director at the software company he started and led for decades. When Gates stepped down in March of 2020, he said it was to focus on “philanthropic priorities.”
Gates resigned from the Microsoft board on March 13, 2020, three months after he had been re-elected to his seat.
Gates resigned before the board’s investigation was completed and before the full board could make a formal decision on the matter, the WSJ reported.
“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,” a Microsoft spokesman said. “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.”
However, a spokeswoman for Mr Gates said, “There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably.” She said his “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,” the WSJ report says.
Earlier this month, Gates, 65 years old, and his wife Melinda French Gates, 56, announced that they were ending their marriage after 27 years. In a joint statement posted on Twitter, the couple said, “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.” In a divorce petition, Ms French Gates said their marriage was “irretrievably broken.”