Over 10 years before his departure from Microsoft’s board amid an investigation over an affair with an employee, former CEO Bill Gates was warned by two company executives about inappropriate emails between him and another woman, The Wall Street Journal reported.
While he was still an employee at Microsoft and serving as chairman of the board, Gates and a female employee exchanged “flirtatious” emails and propositioned the employee, the Journal reported. He was married at the time. When confronted by two company executives, Gates reportedly didn’t deny the exchanges and said he would stop the interaction. The executives informed some members of Microsoft’s board, but the board ultimately decided that since there was no physical interaction between the woman and Gates, no further action was necessary.
In response to a request for comment from The Verge, a spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed the accuracy of the Journal report but offered no further comment. But company spokesperson Frank Shaw told the Journal that in 2008, the company was made aware of the email exchange, which happened in 2007. The employee did not make a complaint about the incident, Shaw told the Journal. He described the emails as “flirtatious” but “not overtly sexual” and said Gates had discussed meeting the employee outside of work.
A spokesperson for Gates provided a statement to The Verge that differs from the company’s account (and is the same as a comment provided to the Journal): “These claims are false, recycled rumours from sources who have no direct knowledge, and in some cases have significant conflicts of interest.”
In 2019, some of Microsoft’s board members suggested that Gates should step down as an investigation about an alleged affair with an employee was being conducted. Gates resigned from the board in March 2020, before the investigation was completed. The employee reportedly wrote in a letter to the board that she had a years-long sexual relationship with Gates. He and Melinda French Gates, who were married for 27 years, finalized their divorce in August.