LONDON: Microsoft founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates speaks during the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum in London yesterday. - AFP

WASHINGTON: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, whose departure from the tech giant in 2020 followed revelations of an affair with an employee 20 years before, had already been warned in 2008 over emails to a female staff member that were deemed inappropriate. According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal that was confirmed to AFP by a Microsoft spokesperson, in 2007, Gates, then a full-time employee and president of Microsoft, flirted with a female staffer by email and invited her to meet him outside of work. The following year, the company became aware of the emails and executives of the group told Gates that they were inappropriate and had to stop. Gates admitted the facts and said he would not do it again, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The board, which was informed of these contacts, did not take any action. "Microsoft has nothing to share beyond confirming the accuracy of the WSJ report," a spokesman for the IT company told AFP on Monday. Gates stepped down as president in 2008 and remained on Microsoft's board of directors until March 2020. The former Microsoft boss, one of the richest men in the world, and his wife Melinda announced their divorce in May, after 27 years of marriage.

Editor sacked

In another development, German press group Axel Springer said Monday it had removed the chief editor at tabloid-style daily Bild, Julian Reichelt, over a relationship with a colleague at the country's top-selling newspaper. Reichelt "did not clearly separate his private and work lives and did not tell the board the truth about it," Axel Springer said in a statement, citing information gained "as a result of press investigations in recent days".

An internal investigation in spring looked into allegations the 41-year-old had promoted interns with whom he had had affairs and then sidelined or fired them. Although Reichelt stepped aside during the inquiry, he was reinstated in March alongside a female editor. "Julian Reichelt admitted to mixing professional and private relationships but denied the aforementioned accusations and swore to this under oath," Springer said at the time.

It was not immediately clear which new allegations prompted the company to sack Reichelt, one of Germany's most controversial media figures who tacked Bild hard to the right on some issues. But a New York Times story published Sunday appears to have pushed Springer into action. In recent years, parent company Springer has expanded internationally, first with news site Business Insider and this summer buying all of US-based Politico. The NYT reported that Reichelt had promoted a young woman journalist into a senior position following a relationship between them.

Reichelt said in 2016: "If they find out that I'm having an affair with a trainee, I'll lose my job," the NYT reported, citing testimony the woman gave Springer's internal inquiry. The editor's chair at Bild will now go to Johannes Boie, until now editor-in-chief of Springer's conservative weekly broadsheet Welt Am Sonntag. Founded in 1952, Bild bet on a mixture of human-interest stories, sports and celebrity news to become Germany's top-selling paper, and still prints two million copies per day. - AFP