Microsoft launched an internal investigation into its co-founder and long-time board member Bill Gates after an unnamed person brought forth allegations of Gates having an "intimate relationship with a company employee," the tech giant confirmed Monday.
The alleged incident happened more than 20 years ago, Microsoft said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch on Monday. The company said it hired an outside law firm in the second half of 2019 to conduct the investigation and "provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern." In March 2020, Gates announced his departure from the company's governing board, saying he was stepping down to focus on his work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Microsoft didn't release further details about the investigation in its statement and the company did not comment on what led to Gates' decision to leave the board.
A spokesperson for Gates told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday "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 Journal. "In fact, he had expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy starting several years earlier."
The Journal, citing anonymous sources, said in its report Sunday that fellow board members at Microsoft made a decision last year that it wasn't appropriate for Gates to continue sitting on its board as they investigated his romantic relationship with a female employee that was deemed inappropriate. An employee had written in a letter to the company that she was having an affair with Gates, the Journal reported, again citing anonymous sources.
The New York Times, also citing anonymous sources, reported Sunday that Gates over the years had made overtures to women who worked for him at Microsoft and at the foundation.
Gates, 65, co-founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen. He stepped away from a daily executive role at the company in 2008 and remained on its board of directors until last year's exit. He currently is the fourth richest man in the world and has a net worth of $130.5 billion, according to Forbes. He continues to work as the technical adviser for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Earlier this month, Bill and Melinda Gates announced they were divorcing after 27 years of marriage but would keep working together at their foundation, one of the largest charitable organizations in the world, with about $50 billion in assets, more than the GDP of some countries. The couple donated more than $36 billion of their own wealth to it from 1994 to 2018, according to the foundation's website.