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Gates’ divorce drama: Did Bill Gates’ alleged affair prompt board resignations?

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Bill Gates talks about the onset of COVID-19 in the early days of the global outbreak at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Bill Gates resigned from the Microsoft board after allegations surfaced that the company co-founder had an inappropriate, years-long sexual relationship with an employee, the Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday.

The board, according to the Journal, “decided that Bill Gates needed to step down from its board in 2020 as they pursued an investigation into the billionaire’s prior romantic relationship with a female Microsoft employee that was deemed inappropriate.”

At the time of his resignations from both the Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway boards in March of 2020, Gates said he wanted to devote more time to his work through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In the letter posted on LinkedIn, Gates, 64, wrote that he wanted “to dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change. The leadership at the Berkshire companies and Microsoft has never been stronger, so the time is right to take this step.”

But slightly more than one year later on May 2, 2021, he and his wife of 27 years, Melinda, shocked the philanthropy and tech worlds when they announced on Twitter that they were ending their marriage.

Since then, speculation has swirled about the potential causes of the breakup, who will get what when assets are split, and what will happen to the foundation.

The same day the Journal posted the story about the board investigation, the New York Times published additional details critical about Bill Gates’ professional behavior including inappropriate behavior toward female employees.

According to the Times, “…Bill Gates had also developed a reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings….On at least a few occasions, Mr. Gates pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to people with direct knowledge of his overtures.”

Even though the Gateses announced plans to divorce two weeks ago, the couple has been rumored to be meeting with attorneys since 2019 to begin hashing out the details required to split more than $130 billion in assets and fund the world’s largest foundation.

A spokesperson for Gateses denied that the board resignations have anything to do with the affair which occurred in 2000 and ended without issue. “There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” the spokesperson said to the Journal.

She added that Bill Gates’ “decision to transition off the board 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.”

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