Bill Gates ’tenure at Microsoft has been re-examined amid revelations that the tech giant investigated the billionaire founder’s intimate relationship with a staff member before leaving the board.
The latest news, days after Gates and his wife Melinda announced their divorce, could have major repercussions for the technology founder who has cultivated an image as one of the world’s most dedicated philanthropists.
Recent reports have suggested a series of questionable behaviors on the part of Gates, 65, one of the most prominent members of the American business elite who has been the target of conspiracy theorists over his funding for Covid vaccine development 19.
Microsoft confirmed reports over the weekend that its board of directors initiated an investigation with an external law firm into an employee relationship.
“Microsoft received concern during the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates tried to start an intimate relationship with a company employee in 2000,” a company spokesman said.
But Gates has denied the relationship led him to leave Microsoft’s board last year.
A Gates spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal: “There was an affair almost 20 years ago that ended amicably.”
He added that Gates’ decision to “make the transition out of the council was in no way related to this issue.”
– Consternation –
Other reports noted the meetings between Gates and Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender who committed suicide while awaiting trial for trafficking charges.
Gates’ team assured the board that the Microsoft founder had met Epstein for “philanthropic reasons” and “regretted doing so,” the newspaper said.
The New York Times reported that Melinda Gates expressed dismay at her husband’s meetings with Epstein, but that Gates continued to meet with him.
The Times reported that Melinda Gates was also upset by the private resolution of a sexual harassment lawsuit against her husband’s financial manager and by Gates’ advances toward other Microsoft employees.
The focus on Gates comes amid intense control of sexual harassment and misconduct in the tech sector and the #MeToo movement, which has already caused the fall of several powerful men.
Although none of the reports have suggested sexual misconduct on the part of Gates himself, his actions and associations have tarnished the image of a man respected and admired for a long time.
“On the one hand, Americans disapprove of infidelity. So their image will be successful,” said Alicia Walker, a professor at Missouri State University and author of “Chasing Masculinity: Men, Validation, and Infidelity.” .
“On the other hand, people tend to overlook men’s infidelity as expected. This is especially the case for rich and powerful men.”
– Conspiracy theorists –
According to the Times report, Melinda Gates hired divorce lawyers in 2019 to begin the breakup when revelations surfaced about her husband’s relationship with Epstein, who had been awaiting trial on criminal charges when he was found dead, in the which was declared a suicide.
Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975, making it the most valuable company in the world. He resigned as CEO in 2000 and as Chairman in 2014. He remained a member of the board until last year and has continued as technical advisor to CEO Satya Nadella.
He and his wife, who co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation two decades ago to fight global poverty and disease, announced their divorce on May 3 after 27 years of marriage.
The breakup has raised questions about the future of one of the world’s richest charitable foundations with 1,600 staff members and providing about $ 5 billion each year in areas such as public health and global development.
Gates himself has become a prominent figure who speaks out against climate change and promotes science-based solutions to the coronavirus pandemic, while at the same time becoming the target of conspiracy theorists who claim he knew in advance on the Covid-19.