Bill Gates' 2020 departure from Microsoft board came amid investigation into relationship with employee

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Microsoft board members in 2019 launched an investigation into Bill Gates' prior intimate relationship with a Microsoft engineer, which led board members to decide Mr. Gates should step down from the board in 2020, according to a May 16 report by The Wall Street Journal.

Microsoft board members hired a law firm to conduct an investigation in late 2019 after the employee alleged she had a sexual relationship with Mr. Gates starting in 2000.

"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," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "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."

As part of her discussions with Microsoft, the employee asked that Mr. Gates' wife, Melinda French Gates, read her letter, but it is unclear whether she did.

Before the end of the probe, Mr. Gates was reelected to Microsoft's board at the annual shareholder meeting in December 2019. As more details about the relationship surfaced, board members were concerned Mr. Gates' relationship with the engineer had been inappropriate, and they didn't want to be associated with the situation amid the #MeToo movement.

Mr. Gates resigned from the board in March 2020, three months after being reelected into his seat and before the board's investigation was completed and a formal decision was made.

A spokesperson for Mr. Gates said, "There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably." She also stated that Mr. 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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