Microsoft executives warned Bill Gates in 2008 about inappropriate emails he had sent to a female employee, a Microsoft spokesman said Monday.

The warning involved messages in which Gates, who at the time was a full-time employee and the company’s chair, asked an employee out on a date. Senior Microsoft executives learned of the emails in 2008, according to Frank Shaw, a Microsoft spokesperson.

“These emails proposed meeting outside of work and off campus,” Shaw said. “While flirtatious, they were not overtly sexual but were deemed to be inappropriate.”

After they discovered the messages, executives warned Gates that his behaviour was inappropriate and notified a small group of board members about the incident, Shaw said. Gates told the board members that he agreed that what he had done was inappropriate, and the board took no further action.

Gates left the company shortly thereafter in a long-planned departure, though he remained a member of its board until last year. The executives’ warnings to Gates were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

Bridgitt Arnold, a spokesperson for Gates, told the Journal, “These claims are false, recycled rumours from sources who have no direct knowledge, and in some cases have significant conflicts of interest.” She had no additional comment when reached by The New York Times.

In 2019, after the Times reported on Gates’s long-running relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Microsoft’s board began looking into a report that Gates had, years earlier, had a sexual relationship with a subordinate at Microsoft.

Gates and his wife, Melinda French Gates, announced earlier this year that they were ending their 27-year marriage.

The Times reported in May that Gates had developed a reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings. The article described Gates making an overture to a female Microsoft employee after having attended a presentation by her while he was the company’s chair. Gates left the meeting and immediately emailed the woman to ask her out to dinner, the Times reported.

“If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Gates wrote in an email, according to a person who read it to the Times.

Shaw said Monday that it was Gates’ emails to that female employee that triggered executives’ warnings to Gates in 2008.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Written by: Emily Flitter
Photographs by: Calla Kessler

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