The man responsible for managing the vast majority of billionaire Bill Gates’ fortune has been the subject of claims including racist remarks, showing nude pictures of women to his staff and making sexist comments, the New York Times has reported.
In an extensive investigation the newspaper said that Michael Larson, who runs Cascade Investments, had created a “culture of fear” where the employee abuses had occurred. Cascade’s sole function is to manage the fortune of Gates and Melinda French Gates, who have turned their wealth into a powerhouse of global philanthropy but are now divorcing.
French Gates and Gates have said they are continuing their work at the foundation. “We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives,” French Gates tweeted on 3 May.
Her divorce petition said the couple’s marriage was “irretrievably broken”, but also indicated that the pair had inked a “separation contract” that ironed out several potential points of contention. But the couple were not able to avoid feverish press scrutiny, including on Gates’ behavior and his links to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The newspaper, which said it had interviewed numerous former Cascade employees, reported that Larson had “judged female employees on their attractiveness, showed colleagues nude photos of women on the internet and on several occasions made sexually inappropriate comments. He made a racist remark to a Black employee.”
It added: “He bullied others. When an employee said she was leaving Cascade, Mr Larson retaliated by trying to hurt the stock price of the company she planned to join.”
In a statement to the newspaper, a spokesman for Cascade said: “During his tenure, Mr Larson has managed over 380 people, and there have been fewer than five complaints related to him in total … Any complaint was investigated and treated seriously and fully examined, and none merited Mr. Larson’s dismissal.”
Cascade is also referred to as Bill and Melinda Gates Investments.
Larson told the Times: “Calling BMGI a toxic work environment is unfair to the 160 professionals who make up our team and our culture.”
Courtney Wade, a spokeswoman for French Gates, said: “Melinda unequivocally condemns disrespectful and inappropriate conduct in the workplace. She was unaware of most of these allegations given her lack of ownership of and control over BMGI.”