Bill Gates admits affair with Microsoft staffer, denies seeking marriage advice from Jeffrey Epstein

Following news of the Gates' divorce, more details emerge about Bill's questionable behavior

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published May 17, 2021 1:02PM (EDT)

Bill Gates (Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Bill Gates (Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A spokesperson for Bill Gates confirmed that the Microsoft co-founder had an extramarital affair with a Microsoft employee following a New York Times exposé published over the weekend. The "intimate relationship" was investigated by the company's board about six months before Gates stepped down in March 2020. 

"There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably," Bridgett Arnold, Gates' spokesperson, told the Washington Post in an emailed statement. Microsoft spokesman Frankie Shaw corroborated the allegation in an emailed statement of his own. According to Shaw, Microsoft's board "received a concern in the latter half of 2019" that Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a Microsoft engineer in 2000. 

"A committee of the Board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm to conduct a thorough investigation," Shaw wrote. "Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern."

Shaw declined to say what the investigation revealed, but also said that Gates' decision to transition off the board was not related to the investigation as he had previously "expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy." 

And while it's unclear whether the revelation about or investigation of the affair in question was a contributing factor to Gates' recently-announced divorce from his wife of 27 years, philanthropist Melinda French Gates, it is an example of a longstanding pattern of questionable behavior by Gates. According to the New York Times report published on Sunday, Gates pursued multiple women who worked for him at Microsoft and at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2006, he attended a presentation by a female Microsoft employee. As soon as she wrapped, he reportedly emailed her and asked her to dinner. "If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened," Gates wrote in the email, which was shared with the Times. The employee said she did feel uncomfortable and ignored the request.

Several years later, Gates flirtatiously asked a Gates Foundation employee out to dinner, which made her feel uncomfortable — especially as French Gates was speaking more publicly about the necessity of female empowerment in the workplace. 

"Even though most women now work full-time (or more), we still shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities; we face pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination; we are surrounded by biased and stereotypical representations that perpetuate harmful gender norms," French Gates wrote in a column for TIME magazine at the time.

Bill Gates' indiscretions and unwanted workplace advances were just one indicator of his problematic views on sexual appropriateness.

According to the Times, in 2017, a close associate of Gates, Michael Larson, was accused of sexual harassment by the manager of a bike shop in which Rally Capital — a venture capital firm through which Larson had invested money for Gates —had stake. The manager wrote a letter to Gates and French Gates, saying that she had tried to settle the situation on her own, but it had become untenable and she was considering legal action. The woman reached a settlement in 2018 in which she signed a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for a payment, three people familiar with the claim said. However, French Gates was allegedly unsatisfied with her husband's handling of the situation — specifically his readiness to dismiss concerns over a potentially toxic work culture at Cascade Investment, the firm managed by Larson through which he invested the Gates' and Gates Foundation's funds. 

Her concerns over Gates' priorities were only compounded when the New York Times published the 2019 article "Bill Gates Met With Jeffrey Epstein Many Times, Despite His Past," which detailed the men's meetings together. While Epstein was connected with many wealthy and powerful people, "unlike many others, Mr. Gates started the relationship after Mr. Epstein was convicted of sex crimes," the Times said. At the time, Bill told the publication, "I met him. I didn't have any business relationship or friendship with him." But The Daily Beast reported on Sunday that "the billionaire met Epstein dozens of times starting in 2011 and continuing through to 2014 mostly at the financier's Manhattan home" to discuss Gates' "toxic" marriage. 

A Gates representative denied the allegation: "Bill never received or solicited personal advice of any kind from Epstein— on marriage or anything else. Bill never complained about Melinda or his marriage to Epstein."

For her part, Melinda Gates began expressing concerns about Gate's relationship with Epstein as early as 2013 and then again as recently as 2019 when she met with a team of lawyers to discuss a possible divorce. Epstein died by suicide that same year while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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Aggregate Bill Gates Gates Foundation Jeffrey Epstein Melinda Gates Microsoft