Melinda French Gates filed for divorce from husband Bill Gates on May 3 after 27 years of marriage

By Rachel DeSantis
June 08, 2021 01:00 PM
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Bill and Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates and Bill Gates
| Credit: Kamil Zihnioglu/AFP/Getty

Melinda French Gates is shutting down a report that said she sought professional surveillance of estranged husband Bill Gates ahead of their split.

According to a Vanity Fair story published Monday, "two people familiar with the situation" indicated that "someone in Melinda's circle worked with a private investigator leading up to [Melinda's divorce] filing, which these people expect to inform both the public and private case."

However, a spokesperson for the philanthropist, 56, shot down the claim in a statement first published in the Vanity Fair piece.

"That's completely false," the spokesperson tells PEOPLE. "Neither Melinda nor anyone at her direction ever hired a private investigator."

The Vanity Fair story - which alleges Bill, 65, was "often impatient and demanding" as a boss - comes several weeks after a spokesperson for Bill confirmed that the billionaire Microsoft cofounder had an affair with a staffer that took place nearly 20 years ago.

Confirmation of the infidelity came amid a swirl of reports that alleged Bill had a reputation for pursuing women who worked for him, and was known to exhibit "questionable conduct in work-related settings."

RELATED VIDEO: Bill Gates Stepped Down from Microsoft Board After Investigation of Affair with Employee: Report

The New York Times reported that "on at least a few occasions," Bill made attempts to pursue women who worked for him both at Microsoft and at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which he founded with his estranged wife in 2000.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Bill's past affair with a staffer was what prompted him to step down from the Microsoft board last year following an investigation - something he denied.

A source told PEOPLE last month that Melinda "was aware there were some issues" regarding her husband's alleged indiscretions, "but it's unclear if she knew about all of it."

A spokesperson for Bill, meanwhile, told PEOPLE in a statement at the time that "the claim of mistreatment of employees" is false.

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

"It is extremely disappointing that there have been so many untruths published about the cause, the circumstances and the timeline of Bill Gates's divorce," the statement said. "[The New York Times'] characterization of his meetings with [Jeffrey] Epstein and others about philanthropy is inaccurate, including who participated. Similarly, any claim that Gates spoke of his marriage or Melinda in a disparaging manner is false. The claim of mistreatment of employees is also false. The rumors and speculation surrounding Gates's divorce are becoming increasingly absurd, and it's unfortunate that people who have little to no knowledge of the situation are being characterized as 'sources.'"

On May 22, Bill was pictured in public for the first time since he and Melinda announced their split after 27 years of marriage. Leaving a hotel in New York City, he was photographed wearing his wedding band on his left ring finger.

The couple - who share children Jennifer, 25, Rory, 22, and Phoebe, 18 - have said they will continue to work together at their foundation.

Divorce documents filed by Melinda on May 3 do not request spousal or child support, only that the court enforce the couple's separation contract.