Bill Gates wants to keep his divorce out of the spotlight as much as possible. But the public attention drawn by the split is uncovering more ugly secrets of his past by the day. At first, it was inappropriate behavior around female colleagues and an actual affair to which he admitted. This time, the dirt is on his longtime confidant, Michael Larson, who has managed the Gates family’s vast fortune for nearly three decades.
Larson is the chief investment officer of Gates’s family office, Cascade Investments. He was accused by multiple former employees of creating “a culture of fear” at the Gates family office, according to a Wednesday report by The New York Times, citing more than 10 anonymous sources including former employees and people familiar with the firm.
At least four Cascade employees complained to Gates over the years about Larson’s questionable behavior, including bullying and making racist and sexist remarks in office. “He openly judged female employees on their attractiveness, showed colleagues nude photos of women on the internet and on several occasions made sexually inappropriate comments,” the Times reported.
In one particular instance in 2004, Larson mocked a Black female employee by saying, “you live in the ghetto.” When the employee said she was going to leave Cascade and join another company, Larson went so far as to try to hurt that company’s stock price “out of spite,” according to three sources.
Several employees also filed complaints with Gates’s now ex-wife, Melinda French Gates. However, instead of escalating the matter, the couple chose to pay at least seven people who witnessed or knew about Larson’s misconduct in exchange for their silence.
A spokesperson for Melinda French Gates said she “was unaware of most of these allegations given her lack of ownership of and control” over the family office, which is also known as Bill and Melinda Gates Investments.
“Calling BMGI a toxic work environment is unfair to the 160 professionals who make up our team and our culture,” Larson said in a statement to the Times.
But his spokesperson didn’t completely deny the allegations. “During his tenure, Mr. Larson has managed over 380 people, and there have been fewer than five complaints related to him in total,” said his spokesman Chris Giglio said in a statement. “Any complaint was investigated and treated seriously and fully examined, and none merited Mr. Larson’s dismissal.”
Gates hired Larson from a hedge fund in 1994 to manage his personal fortune of $10 billion at the time. The next year, the billionaire incorporated Cascade Investments in Washington State as a private investment firm.
Over the years, Larson has grown Gates’s wealth to over $130 billion thanks to Microsoft’s surging stock and shrewd investments in undervalued stocks. The family office also manages the Gates Foundation’s $50 billion endowment.
Earlier this month, the Times reported that Gates had pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on multiple occasions. In 2019, Microsoft’s board launched a probe into one of those cases, in which Gates acknowledged he had an affair with an employee. Gates stepped down from the board in 2020, citing reasons unrelated to the investigation.