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Image of Bill Gates, tarnished by revelations about extra-marital relationship

The Wall Street Journal revealed that Bill Gates’ final departure from the Microsoft group in March 2020 would be linked to a relationship deemed “inappropriate” with an employee in the early 2000s.

Signs of extra-marital relationships and inappropriate behavior tarnish the image of former Microsoft boss and prominent philanthropist Bill Gates days after announcing his divorce after 27 years of relationship.

In twenty years, the Foundation created together with his wife, Melinda, has grown to become the most powerful private charity in the world, having financed projects and initiatives totaling 53.8 billion.

But since the end of their marriage was known, Bill Gates’s 65-year-old image of a respectable and secretive man has been losing strength to revelations showing gray areas.

On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Bill Gates’ final departure from the Microsoft group in March 2020 would be linked to a relationship deemed “inappropriate” with an employee in the early 2000s.

According to an official version, Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft in 1975, left the group’s board of directors to devote himself fully to its founding. He has no longer been managing director since 2000.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to AFP that the group was aware in late 2019 that “Bill Gates sought to establish an intimate relationship with a company working in 2000,” an engineer.

“Aboard committee examined the problem, assisted by an external law firm, for a thorough investigation,” he added.

The engineer had stated, in a letter, that she had had a sexual relationship with Bill Gates “for years,” the Wall Street Journal states, which specified that the abandonment of her administrator roles and her final departure from the group had taken place before the end of this investigation.

Another spokesman, however, told the WSJ that Bill Gates had left Microsoft in order to dedicate himself to “full-time” to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The financial journal further states that board members had also integrated the links between Bill Gates and financier Jeffrey Epstein, who had been charged with sexual abuse of dozens of minors in his lavish residences before being found hanged in his Manhattan cell in August 2019.

“Questionable behavior”

Bill Gates’ defense said that these were then relationships that were framed in his philanthropic chores and that he had “regretted” those meetings, the Wall Street Journal stresses.

Beyond this extramarital relationship and the evenings shared with Epstein, the New York Times published on Monday an extensive article based on testimonies from the anonymity that suggested that “long before divorce, Bill Gates was known for his questionable behavior.”

This diary states in particular that Bill Gates helped cover up a sexual harassment case involving its financial manager Michael Larson.

According to two people informed about this matter, Melinda Gates would have expressed disagreement in 2018 with the way her husband had handled this case, having allowed Larson to remain in office following an economic transaction with the alleged victim.

The New York Times also states that “Mr. Gates occasionally quoted women from the office.”

In 2006, for example, she would have attended a presentation by a Microsoft employee. “Mr. Gates, who was then president of the company, left the meeting and immediately emailed the woman to invite her to dinner, according to two people close to that exchange,” the paper says.

According to six Microsoft employees and former employees, the foundation and the company that manages Gates’ fortunes stated that these incidents, and more recent ones, “have sometimes created an uncomfortable work environment.”

However, the NYT notes that “although they disapproved of Mr. Gates’ behavior, some employees did not consider him a predator.”

For Alicia Walker, a professor of sociology at the University of Missouri, these revelations should not have a lasting impact on Bill Gates’ image.

Because while Americans disapprove of infidelity, “people tend to overlook male infidelity. And this is especially true for rich and powerful men,” he said, referring to what happened to the infidelity of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.

Concern for gates Foundation

Despite their divorce, Bill and Melinda Gates said they will continue to run the foundation together. However, concerns remain about the future of social projects.

In 2010, the Gates, whose fortune is now worth approximately $145 billion, signed the ‘Giving Pledge’, a promise they created together to convince the world’s richest people to donate most of their wealth in their lives or by will. They themselves would offer “the vast majority of our assets to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.” It remains to be seen how that money will be distributed as a result of their announced divorce.

The promise is not legally binding, and Bill and Melinda have already explored other forms of retribution, addressing climate change and gender inequality, respectively, through their own investment firms. Her individual donations could expand now that there are two households with a very high net worth instead of one, said Elizabeth Dale, an associate professor of nonprofit leadership at the University of Seattle.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is not a common family philanthropy; is the largest of its kind on the planet. With more than 1,600 employees and offices worldwide, it has an endowment of US$50 billion and has already distributed more than US$50 billion since its inception to causes such as vaccine development and women’s empowerment. Compete with large countries in their support, contributing more resources to research and development to combat malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases.