Microsoft Corp. board members decided that Bill Gates needed to step down from its board in 2020 as they pursued an investigation into the billionaire’s prior romantic relationship with a female Microsoft employee that was deemed inappropriate, as reported by WSJ.

“Microsoft received a concern in the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement to the WSJ.

“A committee of the Board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm to conduct a thorough investigation. Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern,” the company spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for Gates, however, denied that his resignation from the board was related to the investigation.

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“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying, adding that his “decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter”.

According to the report, some Microsoft board members “decided it was no longer suitable” for Gates to remain a director at Microsoft after the alleged affair came into limelight.

Gates announced in March last year that he was stepping down from the board of directors of Microsoft, the company he co-founded in 1975 with the late Paul Allen.

“I have made the decision to step down from both of the public boards on which I serve – Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway – to dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change,” Gates said via LinkedIn.

Gates then began to shift his attention to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Earlier this month, the mega-billionaire couple Bill and Melinda Gates announced they were divorcing because their 27-year marriage has “irretrievably broken”.

The financial magazine Forbes has estimated Bill Gates is worth more than $100 billion.