Bill Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board in March 2020, saying he wanted to "dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities"

By Benjamin VanHoose
May 17, 2021 10:03 AM
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Bill Gates was investigated for a past affair with an employee after the staffer brought it to light in 2019, leading to the founder stepping down from the Microsoft board last year, according to a new report. Gates, however, claims the investigation was not the reason for his stepping down.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Gates, 65, was being investigated by an outside law firm hired by Microsoft board members after one of the company's engineers claimed she once had a years-long sexual relationship with Gates dating back to 2000.

The board ultimately decided Gates should step down, the outlet said, and Gates formally stepped down from the Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway boards in March 2020. At the time, he said the decision was so he could "dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change."

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, a rep for Gates said, "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. In fact, he had expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy starting several years earlier."

"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 spokesperson said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. "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."

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Bill Gates
| Credit: John Lamparski/Getty Images

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After 27 years of marriage, Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce in statement on social media earlier this month, saying they "no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives" but "will continue our work together" at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They share three kids: son Rory John, 21, and daughters Phoebe Adele, 18, and Jennifer Katharine, 25.

Court documents obtained by PEOPLE showed that Melinda, 56, filed for divorce and stated in the petition that their marriage was "irretrievably broken." The court docs also revealed that the Gateses do not have a prenuptial agreement in place, but will instead divide their assets according to a separation agreement.

Bill and Melinda Gate
Bill and Melinda Gates
| Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Melinda previously spoke about how upon graduating college and landing her first job at the then-start-up, she began dating Bill, who was the company's CEO at the time. "I met her at a New York City sales meeting," Bill said in a 2017 interview with CBS Sunday Morning. "And then it was only a week or so after that, that I went up to her in the parking lot and asked if she wanted to go out."

In the same interview, Melinda spoke about their foundation. "It's absolutely a partnership of equals. It's important to both of us that the world understands that we are running this place together. This is our joint values being played out in the world," she said at the time.

And in 2018, Melinda similarly told PEOPLE: "We lead this organization together — the goals, the people we hire, the values we set — we enjoy doing that together. Bill is the first person I want to talk to when I get back from being out in the field. We sharpen each other's thinking."