Several members of Microsoft's board of directors believed last year that founder Bill Gates should not sit on the board after it was revealed that he had a sexual relationship with a female employee, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
The Journal reported that multiple members of the board came to believe that Gates should not hold a leadership role at the company after a woman wrote to the company in 2019 alleging a years-long affair with Gates, who founded the company in 1975.
The company launched an internal investigation into the woman's claims, during which several board members decided that Gates needed to step down, according to the Journal.
Gates, who announced his divorce from his wife, Melinda Gates, earlier this month, acknowledged the affair in a statement through a spokeswoman to the Journal while contending that the relationship "ended amicably." It wasn't clear if the woman had alleged any misconduct by Gates in her 2019 letter to Microsoft.
"There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably," said the spokeswoman. She added the billionaire's decision to step down from the board in March 2020 "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," added a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to the Journal. "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."
The news of Gates's affair comes just days after it was reported that his now-estranged wife met with divorce lawyers as far back as two years ago after reports emerged linking her husband to Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender and accused sex trafficker who died in federal prison in 2019.