Citing people familiar with the matter, the paper said that Gates was asked to vacate his seat in March 2020 after an extramarital relationship he had with a staffer became the subject of a company probe.
He had been re-elected to the board just three months prior.
Explaining his decision, Gates released a statement at the time saying that he wanted to focus on his philanthropic endeavors, adding that he would continue to act as an adviser to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
He also resigned his position on the board of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the conglomerate run by fellow billionaire businessman Warren Buffett.
But according to the Journal, there were more scandalous reasons behind Gates’ departure.
In late 2019, members of the Microsoft board were reportedly alerted to a letter from a female employee who detailed a relationship she had with the software mogul, and also demanded changes to her job at the company.
She allegedly requested that Gates’ now-estranged wife, Melinda French Gates, also read her letter detailing the purported affair.
Board members tasked with looking into the matter hired a law firm to investigate possible misconduct.
As more details came to light, the company’s leadership feared that the relationship between Gates and the female staffer had been “inappropriate,” the paper reported.
Board members also reportedly raised concerns about Gates’ dealings with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Gates is said to have stepped down before the board made a formal ruling on the matter.
Responding to the allegation, Microsoft acknowledged it had “received a concern” that Gates had “sought to initiate an intimate relationship” with an employee in 2000.
The company said that it had conducted a “thorough investigation” into the allegation and that it provided “extensive support” to the staffer who came forward with the allegation.
A spokesperson for Gates confirmed that the billionaire had engaged in an affair “almost 20 years ago” but that the relationship “ended amicably.” Gates’ representative insisted, however, that his decision to leave the board was not related to the matter.
The claim about his hidden motive for leaving the company comes amid a string of reports about Gates’ personal life leading up to his recent divorce.
According to the Daily Beast, Gates allegedly sought marriage advice from Epstein during multiple visits to his Manhattan townhouse between 2011 and 2014.
Gates reportedly told the infamous ‘financier’ that his marriage to Melinda was “toxic.”
During their chats, the billionaire allegedly also suggested that he could help Epstein “rehabilitate his image” following his 2008 conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution. The infamous sex offender allegedly killed himself in August 2019 while awaiting his trial at a federal jail in Manhattan. He had been arrested a month earlier and charged with sex trafficking.
A spokesperson for Gates insisted that the two men never discussed Melinda in a disparaging way and also disputed details about their meetings.
In a separate report, the New York Times claimed that on several occasions, Gates pursued women who worked at Microsoft and his philanthropic foundation.
The behavior reflected his reputation for “questionable conduct in work-related settings,” the paper said.
Gates and his ex-wife announced the end of their 27-year-marriage earlier this month.
The Daily Beast reported that Gates’ friendship with Epstein had “haunted” her and led to tensions between the couple. She has not commented publicly on the matter.
However, the pair reportedly said in their divorce papers that the marriage was “irretrievably broken.”