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This story originally appeared on Business Insider
Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates’ money manager made racist and sexual comments about employees, a new report from The New York Times’ Anupreeta Das, Emily Flitter, and Nicholas Kulish found.
Former employees of Cascade Investment told the outlet that Michael Larson showed coworkers photos of naked women, judged female colleagues’ attractiveness in front of male employees, and fostered a “culture of fear” at the firm tasked with growing the Gateses’ wealth.
The report comes as Gates’ carefully curated public image continues to unravel in the wake of his divorce from French Gates.
When an employee, Stacy Ybarra, told Larson she planned to leave Cascade for another company, Larson shorted that company’s stock and told her he had done so to spite her, three people told The Times. (A spokesperson for Larson confirmed to The Times that Cascade shorted the stock but said it wasn’t done to spite Ybarra).
Sources told the outlet that Larson would call employees “stupid” and dub their work to be “garbage.”
In a statement to The Times, Larson said: “Years ago, earlier in my career, I used harsh language that I would not use today. I regret this greatly but have done a lot of work to change.”
Two sources told The Times that Larson also made a racist comment to Ybarra, who is Black. After she told him she had voted before coming to work on Election Day one November, Larson said “but you live in the ghetto, and everybody knows that Black people don’t vote,” according to the report.
Larson, who could not be reached by Insider, denied making the remark and “some but not all” of the allegations of misconduct, according to The Times. Insider also reached out to a spokesperson for Larson, Chris Giglio, for additional comment on the report.
“During his tenure, Mr. Larson has managed over 380 people, and there have been fewer than five complaints related to him in total,” Giglio told The Times.
“Any complaint was investigated and treated seriously and fully examined, and none merited Mr. Larson’s dismissal,” Giglio added, per The Times.
Cascade opened an internal investigation into Larson’s alleged remark to Ybarra, and Gates and French Gates spoke with Ybarra as part of it, sources told The Times.
Larson also once showed male colleagues pictures of naked women and compared them to the company’s head of human resources, according to the report. Separately, a former employee said Larson asked her whether she would strip for money. Larson denied both incidents to The Times.
The Times also reported Larson was accused of harassing a woman who managed a bike shop that was majority-owned by a Cascade-backed company. The woman hired a lawyer in 2017 and wrote a letter to Gates and French Gates threatening to sue the couple if Larson’s alleged advances didn’t stop. In the letter, the woman said Larson had told her he wanted to have sex with her as well as another woman, a source who read the letter told The Times.
The Times reported the sexual-harassment allegation last week, but the Wednesday report sheds more light.
Gates’ solution was to pay the manager in a settlement, while French Gates suggested conducting an external review of the matter and of the work culture at Cascade, sources told The Times in a previous report.
An investigation by a law firm concluded the accusation couldn’t be substantiated, and Larson returned to work at Cascade after a leave of absence. A spokesperson for Larson told The Times that Larson had “wanted to contest the allegations throughout the investigation.”
A Gates spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
Cascade Investment was created to manage the Gateses’ fortune as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation endowment. The Wall Street Journal published a profile on Larson in 2014, detailing how his job was to “make Bill Gates richer.”
In the weeks since the divorce announcement, questions have swirled regarding the couple’s massive $130 billion fortune, their continued efforts at the Gates Foundation, their children’s inheritance, and other factors regarding Gates’ personal conduct, such as an affair he had with a Microsoft staffer in 2000. A Gates spokesperson confirmed the affair and said it “ended amicably.”
Gates’ reported connections to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein have also resurfaced since news of the divorce broke. Gates told The Journal in 2019 that he had indeed met the financier but did not have “any business relationship or friendship with him.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said The New York Times reported Michael Larson was accused of exposing himself to a woman who managed a bike shop. The Times has since removed this claim from its report. A spokesperson for Larson told Insider the claim was not true.