Bill Gates’ money manager shared nude photos of women in the office, judged female colleagues for their appearance, and made racist and sexually abusive comments, former employees claim.
They described Michael Larson, 61, as a notorious bully who belittled his female staff and humiliated those around him.
At a Christmas party at work in the mid-2000s, sources told The New York Times that Larson sat outside after dinner with a small group of male employees, with three female colleagues standing about 20 feet away.
“Which one of them do you want to fuck,” Larson asked.
When a female staff member attended Weight Watchers, Larson reportedly asked if it was for him to lose weight.
Another woman at his company is said to have been asked by Larson if she would strip for a certain amount.
Michael Larson, 61, has been managing Bill Gates’ money for the past 27 years
Gates, 65, was not a social friend of Larson’s, but the pair had a close working relationship
The New York TimesRevelations about Larson come after the May 4 announcement that the Gateses were divorcing.
The announcement has opened the floodgates for stories of his 2000 affair with a Microsoft employee.
Melinda Gates hired divorce attorneys in 2019 after encounters Gates had with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein went public.
Epstein, accused of sexually assaulting dozens of young girls in the early 2000s, died of suicide in 2019 while in custody.
Melinda Gates is said to be very uncomfortable with Epstein after their first meeting and urged her husband to stay away from the pedophile financier.
She was also unhappy with a 2018 investigation into Larson that ended with a payout from the woman involved.
Larson’s company, Cascade Investments, existed entirely to manage the Gateses’ money
At times, the Gateses got caught up in complaints about Larson.
A woman who ran a local bike shop, largely owned by a company, Rally Capital, in which Cascade had invested, complained that Larson had repeatedly made her a proposal, according to The New York Times.
She repeatedly turned him down, but she claimed – in a letter from a lawyer sent to the Gateses in which she threatened to sue – that he exposed himself to her and said he wanted to have sex with her and another woman.
Bill Gates agreed to resolve the matter by having a payment made to the bike shop manager, the paper reported.
Melinda Gates insisted that an outside investigator review Cascade’s incident and culture – an investigation that took place in 2018, when Larson went on leave.
He returned in 2019; Melinda would be unhappy with the outcome.
Bill and Melinda Gates, pictured in 2018, hired Larson in 1994 to manage their finances
Bill Gates’ relationship with Larson began in 1993, when his previous financial manager, Andrew L. Evans, was sent to prison for bank fraud.
In the ensuing scandal, Gates hired Larson in 1994.
After taking the job, Larson decided to “ go off the radar, ” said Roger McNamee, co-founder of Elevation Partners, a Silicon Valley company that was an early investor in Facebook.
A former employee told The New York Times that the philosophy was, “We don’t want Bill’s name in the headlines.”
Founded in Washington State near the offices of both Bill and Melinda Gates and Microsoft, Larson’s company grew to more than 100 people, all of whom worked to increase the wealth of both the Gateses personally and their Foundation.
Larson was known as a relatively traditional investor, preferring safe bets to massive risks.
He invested their money in farmland, hotels, stocks, bonds and even a bowling alley.
Thanks to Larson’s team and the appreciation of Microsoft’s stock, Bill Gates’ fortune has grown from less than $ 10 billion to about $ 130 billion.
Larson is seen in July 2009, arriving for the annual conference in Sun Valley, Idaho
In September 2014, the Gateses held a dinner for Larson at their Seattle mansion nicknamed Xanadu 2.0 to celebrate Larson’s 20 years of working with them.
Gates toasted to Larson, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time, saying that Larson has his ‘complete faith and belief’.
He added, “Melinda and I are free to pursue our vision of a healthier and better educated world because of what Michael has done.”
Larson and Gates were neither friends nor social. But Gates certainly seemed to have Larson’s back.
“They are by no means two buddies,” said Steve Walsh, former CEO of Legg Mason Inc.’s Western Asset Management unit, whom Larson has known for years.
Walsh said he was impressed with the 2014 party.
“It was almost tender – and endearing,” he told The Wall Street Journal.
But the problems were plain to see behind closed doors.
Stacy Ybarra, who joined the company in 2001 as an investor relations analyst, announced that she would be leaving for another company, InfoSpace, in 2004.
Ybarra was hired as an investor relations analyst in 2001. In 2004, Larson made racist remarks
Larson was furious and wanted to sabotage her new company by telling Ybarra and others that he had cut InfoSpace’s stock out of spite, the three people who heard about his comments at the time, according to The New York Times.
Ybarra then decided to stay with Larson.
In November of that year, Larson asked his staff about the best time to vote in the presidential election.
Ybarra, who is black, replied that she voted that morning without waiting in line.
According to two people who heard the comment, and a third who was later told about it and told The New York Times, Larson replied, “But you live in the ghetto and everyone knows that black people don’t vote.”
Complaints were filed and Bill and Melinda Gates later spoke to Ybarra as part of an investigation, people familiar with the case told the New York Times …
In January 2005, she quit Cascade, received a small payout, and agreed not to talk about the company in the future.
Chris Giglio, Larson’s spokesman, denied making the racist comment.
“During his tenure, Mr. Larson has led more than 380 people, and there have been less than five complaints about him in total,” Giglio said.
“Every complaint was investigated and investigated seriously and completely, and none merited Mr. Larson’s dismissal.”
The Times also reported that in November 2006, the Gateses were alerted to concerns about Larson – this time in a letter from Robert E. Sydney, a California fund manager who was close friends with Larson and godfather to one of Larson’s children.
Sydow’s company, Grandview Capital Management, was hired by Larson to manage a portion of $ 1.6 billion of the foundation’s endowment.
Sydow warned Larson to “stop using his power to harm others,” and in the letter to the Gateses, he warned them of a toxic environment at the company.
As a result, Larson’s office was moved to another floor away from his staff, and employees, including Larson, had to undergo sexual harassment and sensitivity training.
Still, a former employee told The New York Times that Larson didn’t seem to take it seriously.
They remembered him saying, “We don’t need this.”
Giglio denied that.
Bill Gates’ spokeswoman Bridgitt Arnold said she ‘will not tolerate inappropriate behavior’
Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Bill Gates, said Bill and Melinda Gates Investments (BMGI), whose name is sometimes used interchangeably with Cascade’s, has a robust policy of handling employee complaints of misconduct.
“BMGI takes all complaints seriously and tries to address them effectively to ensure a safe and respectful workplace,” said Giglio.
Arnold said, “BMGI does not tolerate inappropriate behavior.”
She added that ‘every issue raised throughout the company’s history has been taken seriously and properly resolved’.
Larson said, “Calling BMGI a toxic work environment is unfair to the 160 professionals who make up our team and culture.”
Courtney Wade, a spokeswoman for Melinda Gates, said: “Melinda unequivocally condemns disrespectful and inappropriate behavior in the workplace. She was unaware of most of these allegations, given her lack of ownership and control over BMGI. ‘
Larson admitted that he used harsh language with his staff.
“Years ago, earlier in my career, I used harsh language that I wouldn’t use today,” Larson said.
“I regret this very much, but I have done a lot of work to change.”