Microsoft told Bill Gates to stop sending flirty emails to a staffer as long ago as 2008, the Wall Street Journal reports. Not long after Gates and his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, split, reports started to surface of affairs and other sketchy behaviors. Now, the WSJ reports that Microsoft’s top lawyer and top HR staffer took Gates aside and told him to knock it off. At the time Gates was sending the emails to the mid-level staffer, in 2007, Gates was married, a full-time Microsoft employee, and chairman of the board.
Then-General Counsel Brad Smith and then Chief People Officer Lisa Brummel learned of emails Gates had sent to a woman who worked for the company that were flirtatious and suggested getting together outside of work, per the Journal. Smith and Brummel met with Gates, who didn’t deny sending the emails. Gates reportedly agreed they weren’t appropriate and promised to stop. Then, Brummel and Smith told the Microsoft board, which decided that was enough and because the exchanges weren’t overtly sexual, nothing physical ever came of them, and the other party never complained, they would let the matter lie. Gates retired from the day-to-day running of Microsoft in 2008 and stepped down as chairman of the board in 2014. He resigned from the board last year.
A Gates spokesman denied the WSJ report in a statement to the Guardian. "These claims are false, recycled rumors from sources who have no direct knowledge, and in some cases have significant conflicts of interest," the spokesman said. Microsoft, however, confirmed the report Monday, the AP reports. (Gates has acknowledged that hanging out with Jeffrey Epstein was a "huge mistake.")