Bill Gates had an affair nearly 20 years ago that "ended amicably," a spokesperson for the billionaire recently said

By Rachel DeSantis and Charlotte Triggs
May 18, 2021 02:01 PM
Advertisement

Melinda French Gates was not entirely in the dark when it came to her husband Bill Gates' alleged indiscretions at Microsoft, a source tells PEOPLE.

"Melinda was aware there were some issues, but it's unclear if she knew about all of it," says the insider.

Though the couple split after 27 years of marriage earlier this month, a spokesperson for Bill, 65, on Monday confirmed an affair with a staffer that took place nearly 20 years ago.

A recent New York Times report alleged that the billionaire Microsoft cofounder had a reputation for pursuing women who worked for him.

"There definitely were steps taken along the way with Microsoft at various times based on his behavior," the source tells PEOPLE.

A rep for Melinda, who met Bill after she started working for Microsoft as a product manager in 1987, did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment, nor did a spokesperson for Bill.

Bill and Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates and Bill Gates
| Credit: Kamil Zihnioglu/AFP/Getty

The Times report claimed that Bill was known for exhibiting "questionable conduct in work-related settings," and "on at least a few occasions" 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.

A spokesperson for Bill previously told PEOPLE in a statement that "the claim of mistreatment of employees" is false.

"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's] 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.'"

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

Meanwhile, a recent Wall Street Journal report alleged 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 spokesperson for Bill told PEOPLE in a statement that while there was an affair nearly 20 years ago that "ended amicably," it had nothing to do with Bill's decision to transition off the board.

"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."

melinda gates
Melinda Gates
| Credit: Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Bill and Melinda announced their split on May 3. They have three children, daughters Jennifer, 25, and Phoebe, 18, and son Rory, 21.

An insider previously told PEOPLE that the couple's split was not a surprise to their inner circle, and that their relationship had been splintering before they officially called it quits.

bill and melinda gates
Bill and Melinda Gates
| Credit: Leigh Vogel/WireImage

"He could have treated Melinda better," the source said. "He's not a saint, but there isn't one thing that created the final split. It goes deeper than that."

"It's many years of differing views of the world, the foundation, and of life in general, and those things piling up. They are older and each personally looked at life and asked, 'Is there more out there than what I have?'" the source continued.

Despite the divorce, the couple said in a joint statement that they will continue to work together at their foundation.

The divorce documents filed by Melinda do not request spousal or child support, only that the court enforce the couple's separation contract.