Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates made numerous “inappropriate” advances with his female employees at his software company and at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation prior to his divorce, according to a new report on Monday. The New York Times reports that Gates’ behaviour strained his relationship to his wife, Melinda. The paper notes that Gates’ attempts at affairs earned him a reputation at Microsoft and his foundation as a womanizer.
Six current and former employees of Microsoft, the foundation and the firm that manages the Gates’ fortune said those incidents, and others more recently, at times created an uncomfortable workplace environment. Mr. Gates was known for making clumsy approaches to women in and out of the office. His behaviour fuelled widespread chatter among employees about his personal life.
“Multiple people said that during their marriage, Mr. Gates engaged in work-related behaviour that they said was inappropriate for a person at the helm of a major publicly traded company and one of the world’s most influential philanthropies,” the Times reported.
In 2006, the billionaire reportedly solicited a female employee at Microsoft and asked her out for dinner over email after watching her presentation earlier in the day. “If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Gates reportedly wrote.
Two years later, Gates reportedly made a pass at an employee at his charitable foundation, asking her out for dinner at a cocktail party, saying, “I want to see you. Will you have dinner with me?” The employee reportedly shrugged off his advances.
Contacted for comment, a spokesperson for Bill Gates denied that the billionaire had ever mistreated his employees. The spokesperson also denied reports surrounding Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of sex crimes and reportedly died of suicide in 2019 while in prison.
“It is extremely disappointing that there have been so many untruths published about the cause, the circumstances and the timeline of Bill Gates’s divorce,” said spokesperson Bridgitt Arnold to the New York Times. “Your characterization of his meetings with Epstein and others about philanthropy is inaccurate, including who participated.”
“Similarly, any claim that Gates spoke of his marriage or Melinda in a disparaging manner is false. The claim of mistreatment of employees is also false,” Arnold said. “The rumors and speculation surrounding Gates’s divorce are becoming increasingly absurd, and it’s unfortunate that people who have little to no knowledge of the situation are being characterized as ‘sources.’”