In 2019, a company engineer sent a letter reporting she had a sexual affair with the then chairman of the board. Gates resigned from the board in 2020, saying he wanted to spend more time with his philanthropic efforts.
Bill Gates Sent Flirtatious Emails
Microsoft executives discovered that Gates sent emails to a midlevel female employee while he was Chairman of the board. In the messages, Gates exhibited flirtatious behavior and even propositioned the female employee.
As a result, two Microsoft executives, then-General Counsel Brad Smith and then-Chief People Officer Lisa Brummel, met with Gates. They warned him that his behavior needed to stop due to it being inappropriate.
Gates did not deny the correspondence and told the executives he will stop. However, the executives told members of Microsoft’s board.
This led to a board committee discussing the matter. Eventually, the board found no need for further action. The investigation did not show any indications of physical interaction.
Microsoft Aware Of Emails As Early As 2007
Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said that in 2008, the company learned of the emails Gates sent a year earlier. In the emails, Gates proposed meeting the employee outside of work and off-campus.
Shaw described the exchange as “while flirtatious,” he said the contents were not overtly sexual. Either way, the board found the contents inappropriate.
The employee who received the email never made a complaint about the incident. However, Bridgitt Arnold issued a written statement denying the story. “These claims are false, recycled rumors from sources who have no direct knowledge, and in some cases have significant conflicts of interest,” she said.
Bill Gates Resigned From the Board in 2020, then Divorced A Year Later
Gates is one of the world’s richest people, with a net worth of $127.1 billion in 2021. He served as CEO of Microsoft from its founding in 1975 until 2000. From there, he served as a full-time employee until 2008 and as chairman of the board until 2014.
He resigned his seat on the board in 2020. A year later, he and his wife of 27 years, Melinda French Gates, filed to end their marriage. Despite the divorce, the couple agreed to continue jointly managing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This is one of the world’s largest philanthropies.
At the time Gates resigned in 2020, the board hired a law firm to investigate a female engineer’s letter alleging a prior sexual relationship with Gates.
This is not the same woman that executives warned about a decade earlier. Shaw said that the relationship alleged in the 2019 letter happened in 2002. However, Microsoft only knew of the matter in 2019.
Rules Didn’t Apply
Smith, now Microsoft’s president and vice-chair, and current CEO Satya Nadella were among the executives who reviewed the 2019 letter. The chairman of the board at the time, John W. Thompson, asked other members of the committee to keep the investigation private.
In fact, board members given access to the letter had to return their copy to Microsoft’s general counsel. Thereafter, some directors decided that Gates should give up his board seat before the investigation concluded.
Meanwhile, Maria Klawe, a Microsoft director from 2009 to 2015, said she wasn’t aware of concerns about Gates and female employees.
However, she said that Gates does exhibit behavior that suggests that rules didn’t apply to him. “He certainly gave the impression that he felt that he had a standing that gave him a particular, a set of rights, that other people wouldn’t have,” said Klawe, the current president of Harvey Mudd College.
Watch Nigel Green DeVere’s video asking if Bill Gates is an Inappropriate Billionaire?
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