Meet Michael Larson, the man who has managed Bill Gates’s fortune for decades and was reportedly accused of sexual harassment in 2017

Michael Larson wearing a hot pink polo and a jacket
Michael Larson, business manager for Cascade Investment LLC, attends the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 10, 2014 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

  • Michael Larson has served as Bill Gates’ money manager for decades.
  • A New York Times report said Larson was accused of sexual harassment in 2017.
  • The Times reported the handling of the situation put Bill and Melinda Gates at odds.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Michael Larson has managed Bill Gates’s fortune, which is worth nearly $130 billion, for decades.

Larson runs Gates’s secretive investment company, Cascade Investment, and manages Gates’s personal wealth as well as that of his charitable foundation. He was hired by Gates almost 30 years ago, when the Microsoft cofounder’s net worth was closer to $5 billion.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Larson became a point of contention between Gates and his wife, Melinda French Gates, after he was accused of sexual harassment in 2017.

The Times reported that a lawyer sent the Gateses a letter alleging Larson had been sexually harassing a woman who managed a bike shop. The shop was partially owned by Rally Capital, a firm that Cascade had invested in.

The letter requested help from the Gateses in addressing the situation with Larson and threatened legal action if they didn’t. Sources told The Times the woman reached a settlement in 2018 that included payment and a nondisclosure agreement.

French Gates hired a law firm to investigate the woman’s claims and the culture at Cascade, a time during which Larson was placed on leave. The outcome of the investigation was not clear, but Larson kept his job.

Larson could not be reached by Insider and did not respond to The Times.

The Times report also alleged Gates had pursued female employees and was dismissive of French Gates in work meetings at Microsoft. The high-profile couple announced earlier this month they would be separating after 27 years.

The man who makes Bill Gates richer

The Wall Street Journal profiled Larson in 2014, summarizing his job as to “make Bill Gates richer.”

In February of that year, Gates held a celebration at his mansion near Seattle in honor of Larson, who at that point had been working for Gates for 20 years.

“Melinda and I are free to pursue our vision of a healthier and better-educated world because of what Michael has done,” Gates said, according to The Journal.

He told the guests, who were asked to wear platinum or pink, Larson’s favorite color, that Larson had his “complete trust and faith.”

Larson, 61, has worked for Gates through Cascade since 1994. He is the chief investment officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gates’s personal investment portfolio.

He grew up in North Dakota and Albuquerque, and received an MBA from the University of Chicago, Fortune Magazine reported in 1999.

Gates’s assets and Larson’s investment strategy have largely been kept under wraps, but sources told The Journal Cascade produced consistent gains for Gates, with a compound annual return of 11% from 1995 to 2014.

Sources also told The Journal Gates and Larson mostly had a professional relationship and that they rarely interacted socially.

Gates has spent much of his wealth on his charitable foundation, as well as his $125-million Washington estate, a luxury-car collection, and a private plane.

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The incredible life and career rise of Melinda Gates – one of the world’s richest and most powerful women

Melinda Gates
She heads a foundation with a $40 billion endowment.

  • Melinda Gates is one of the most powerful women in the world, according to Forbes.
  • She could be worth $73 billion if she and Bill Gates split their fortune equally in the divorce.
  • Gates will continue in her role as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Melinda Gates is the fifth most powerful woman in the world, and the second American – after Vice President Kamala Harris – to make Forbes’ The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list.

She and her husband, Bill, announced on May 3 plans to divorce after being married 27 years. Though they don’t have a prenuptial agreement, if they split their $146 billion fortune equally, Melinda would be worth around $73 billion.

Gates has become one of the most prolific philanthropists in the world as co-chair of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she helmed virtually on her own for the first six years of operation. She is now co-chair of the foundation with Bill, positions they said they will maintain even after the divorce.

She said in a statement posted to Twitter that she and Bill continue to believe in the mission of the foundation and will continue their work there.

Read more: Agritech startup Enko just raised $45 million in a funding round led by the Gates Foundation

In addition to the foundation’s education and healthcare initiatives, Gates takes a personal interest in women’s issues around the world. At the forefront of her agenda is expanding the availability of contraception and bringing awareness to the concept of time poverty – the notion that hours of daily unpaid work like household chores end up “robbing women of their potential.”

In 2016, Gates was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the US, by President Obama.

Keep scrolling to learn more about her life and how she became one of the world’s richest and most powerful women.

Additional reporting from Tanza Loudenback.

Melinda Gates (neè French) grew up in Dallas, Texas, with her parents – a stay-at-home mother and an aerospace-engineer father – and her three siblings. The family belonged to the local Roman Catholic parish.

Melinda Gates church
St. Monica Catholic Church, where the French family attended church, in Dallas, Texas. Facebook/St. Monica’s Catholic Church

Source: Telegraph

The Frenches were intent on sending all four of their children to college, so Melinda’s father started a side business for rental properties. “We would help him run the business and keep the books,” she said. “We saw money coming in and money going out.”

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The family used an Apple III computer to keep the rental business organized. Melinda was in awe of the computer at the time but would later denounce the brand when she became a Microsoft employee.

Source: Photo by Mark Madeo/Future via Getty Images

Gates was valedictorian and head of the drill team at her high school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas. In 2007, the Gates Foundation donated $7 million to Ursuline for the construction of The French Family Science, Math, and Technology Center – a 70,000 sq. ft. LEED Gold certified laboratory and classroom building.

Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates visits 3rd grade students at Solar Preparatory School for Girls in Dallas, TX on May 3, 2019. Pivotal Ventures

Source: Ursuline Dallas, Marie Claire

She went on to earn a double bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics from Duke University and an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in just five years.

Duke University

Source: Duke Today

But Gates’ dedication to her school work did not deter her from a social life. She was a member of Duke’s Beta Rho chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. In a 1995 interview, a sorority sister remembered her as a serial monogamist and a reserved dresser.

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Philanthropist Melinda Gates participates in AOL’s BUILD Speaker Series at AOL Studios on Tuesday, March 10, 2015, in New York. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Source: Heritage, Seattle Times

Gates has been generous to her alma mater. Her gifts include The French Family Science Center, the University Scholars Program, and the DukeEngage Program. She also served as a Duke trustee from 1996 to 2004.

Melinda Gates with parents Ray and Elaine French
Ray French, Melinda French (Melinda Gates), and Elaine French on commencement day at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, May 1987. Gates Archive

Source: Duke Today

Shortly after graduation, Gates was recruited by Microsoft just after the company went public and its stock began to soar. During her time at the company, she served as project manager of Microsoft Bob, Microsoft Encarta, and Expedia.

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William Gates, the father of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, sits in the crowd waiting for the start of Windows 95 Launch Event held on the Microsoft corporate campus in Redmond, Wash., on Aug. 24, 1995. Seated next to him is Melinda French Gates, the wife of Bill Gates. AP Photo/Gary Stewart

Source: Seattle Times

At a company picnic, Gates’ soon to be ex-husband, Bill, asked if she’d like to join him on a date in two weeks. She turned him down because he wasn’t spontaneous enough. Within an hour, he asked to take her out that night and she agreed. The pair kept a low profile at work and asked colleagues and family members to respect their privacy.

Bill and Melinda Gates
File photo from November 24, 1998. Reuters

Source: Business Insider, Seattle Times

Gates called the couple’s first trip to Africa in 1993 the turning point. During a walk on the beach in Zanzibar, they decided to do something about the devastation they’d seen. Thus, the Gates Foundation was born.

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FILE – In this Wednesday, March 23, 2011 file photo, Microsoft Corp. founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, right, and his wife Melinda Gates attend to a child as they meet with members of the Mushar community at Jamsot Village near Patna, India. The Gateses won the Lasker public service award “for leading a historic transformation in the way we view the globe’s most pressing health concerns and improving the lives of millions of the world’s most vulnerable,” the Lasker foundation said Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. AP Photo/Aftab Alam Siddiqui

Source: TED.com

In 1994, after seven years of dating, Bill and Melinda married in a secret ceremony on the 17th hole of a Hawaiian golf course after a pre-wedding fireworks display and a performance by Willie Nelson. The wedding tab was reportedly $1 million. The two were married for 27 years before filing for divorce.

Bill Gates Melinda wedding
Computer mogul Bill Gates III and bride Melinda French greet guests in a reception line at a private estate in Seattle, Jan. 9,1994. The couple was married in Hawaii the week prior. AP Photo/Dave Weaver

Gates gave birth to their three children in 1996, 1999, and 2002. Though they won’t be poor, the Gates children will not inherit their parents’ billions, most of which will go to the foundation. “We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing,” Bill said in 2014.

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(L-R) Jennifer Gates and her parents, Bill and Melinda Gates, listen to former U.S. President Barack Obama speak at the Gates Foundation Inaugural Goalkeepers event on September 20, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images

The Gates children have all been to Africa a number of times for philanthropic work. In 2014, Gates and her eldest daughter traveled to Tanzania to do a homestay for the first time. In a TED talk, Gates said, “As they get older, they so know that our family belief is about responsibility, that we are in an unbelievable situation just to live in the United States and have a great education, and we have a responsibility to give back to the world.”

Melinda and Jenn Gates
Melinda and Jennifer Gates visit Tanzania.

Source: TED.com

U2 frontman Bono once said of Melinda: “Lots of people like him [Bill] – and I include myself – are enraged, and we sweep ourselves into a fury at the wanton loss of lives. What we need is a much slower pulse to help us be rational. Melinda is that pulse.”

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Olivier Chassignole, Pool via AP

Source: Fortune

In 2006, Warren Buffett agreed to give 80% of his multi-billion dollar fortunate to the Gates Foundation. Buffett, a close friend of the family, told Fortune that Bill is “smart as hell, obviously … but in terms of seeing the whole picture, [Melinda’s] smarter.”

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AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Source: Fortune

In 2014, Gates joined Bill for a speech during Stanford’s commencement. She gave advice to students and families about hands-on charity: “Let your heart break. It will change what you do with your optimism.”

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Bill Gates and Melinda attend the 123rd Stanford commencement ceremony June 15, 2014 in Stanford, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Source: Stanford

In 1995, a Seattle Times article predicted that perhaps Gates would one day head up a Gates foundation. For the last 15 years, she has been the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a private, global foundation with a $40 billion endowment.

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Melinda Gates participates in the “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project,” in New York, Monday, March 9, 2015. Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP

Source: Seattle TimesGates Foundation

Gates is taking a number of domestic and world issues head-on. Despite her Catholic faith, she has worked to expand the availability of contraception for women, writing in a Fortune article that birth control is “too important to let it be a politicized issue.”

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Melinda Gates talks to reporters about the 2016 annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Source: Huffington PostFortune

She’s recently begun a new initiative to transform the 21st century workplace into one of inclusivity, specifically when it comes to the gender gap.

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Melinda Gates appears on stage at the 2013 Glamour Women of the Year Awards on on Monday, November, 11, 2013 in New York. Photo by Brad Barket/Invision /AP Images

Source: LinkedIn

In November 2016, Gates was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Obama, the highest civilian award in the US, for her work in health and poverty in America and abroad.

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President Barack Obama, accompanied by Bill Gates, left, presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Melinda Gates, center, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, in Washington. Obama is recognizing 21 Americans with the nation’s highest civilian award, including giants of the entertainment industry, sports legends, activists and innovators. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Gates describes the legacy she hopes to leave: “On the day I die, I want people to think that I was a great mom and a great family member and a great friend. I care about that more than I care about anything else.”

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Melinda Gates attends a meeting at the G-7 Finance in Chantilly, north of Paris, on Thursday, July 18, 2019. Philanthropy is in a unique position to speed global change, but government action is necessary to implement it, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said Wednesday, March 17, 2021. AP Photo/Michel Euler

Source: Fortune

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Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced. Here’s a look inside their 27-year marriage, from meeting at work, to having 3 kids, to spending $45 billion on philanthropy.

Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda gates are splitting up, the Microsoft co-founder announced on Monday.

Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced.

The billionaire Microsoft founder announced his plans to separate with his wife of 27 years on Monday.

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” Bill Gates said in a tweet. “Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.”

Bill and Melinda Gates have been married since 1994, raised three kids, are worth $130.5 billion, and run a namesake philanthropic enterprise boasting a $49.8 billion endowment.

Here’s a look at the marriage between Bill and Melinda:

Bill and Melinda first met in 1987, when she joined Microsoft as a product manager.

bill melinda

Bill asked her if she could go out “two weeks from tonight” — to which Melinda replied, “Two weeks from tonight? I have no idea what I’m doing two weeks from tonight.’ And I said, ‘You’re not spontaneous enough for me.”

Source: Business Insider

Melinda gave Bill her number and told him to call her closer to the day he had in mind.

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Business Insider

Instead, he called her up later that night with a wry question: “Is this spontaneous enough for you?” Turns out, it was.

Melinda French Gates

Source: Business Insider

Melinda and Bill dated for seven years before they wed. Melinda told Fortune her mom didn’t think that seeing the CEO was a good idea in the beginning.

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Business Insider, Fortune

But the couple didn’t listen. Business Insider’s Tanza Loudenback reported they “kept a low profile at work and asked colleagues and family members to respect their privacy.”

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Business InsiderSeattle Times, Business Insider

“When I look back, Bill was the same kind of guy I was hanging out with in college,” Melinda told Fortune. “I had a lot of respect for them, and they had respect for me.”

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Business InsiderFortune

“I was definitely attracted to his brilliant mind, but beyond that, his curiosity,” she told Fortune. “And he has a huge sense of fun. I love that wry side of him.”

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Business InsiderFortune

After they were engaged, Bill and Melinda traveled to Africa in late 1993. During the trip, they encountered people in extreme poverty.

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: TEDBusiness Insider

On a walk on a beach in Zanzibar, Melinda told TED in an interview, the couple “started to talk about” how they might use their fortune to help others.

zanzibar beach

Source: TEDBusiness Insider

That’s when the idea that would ultimately become the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began to take root.

Melinda Gates

Source: Gates Notes

“It’s not fair that we have so much wealth when billions of others have so little,” Melinda wrote, in one of the couples’ annual letters.

Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates.

Source: Gates Notes

The couple married in 1994 in what was then Manele Bay Hotel in Hawaii. They tied the knot by the “par-3 12th hole” on the property’s golf course, according to Forbes. The event reportedly cost $1 million.

Bill Gates Melinda wedding

Source: Business Insider, EasyWeddings.com, Forbes, People magazine, Business Insider

To keep the wedding private, Bill booked all the rooms in the hotel, along with all of the helicopters on the island of Maui to “prevent unwanted visitors from flying over,” Forbes reported.

Bill Gates Melinda wedding

Source: Business InsiderEasyWeddings.comForbes

Bill’s parents gifted the newlyweds with a sculpture of two birds, sitting side-by-side and staring at the horizon. “It’s still in front of our house,” Melinda wrote in the couples’ 2018 annual letter. “I think of it all the time, because fundamentally we’re looking in the same direction.”

two birds love winter

Source: Gates Notes

The next year, the couple’s lavish home – nicknamed “Xanadu 2.0” – was completed in Medina, Washington. The mansion’s estimated worth was $124 million in 2016.

Bill Gates House Property

Source: Business InsiderThe Economic Times

The couple has raised two daughters and a son – and didn’t let any of them own a cellphone until they were 14, according to The Mirror.

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider, The Mirror

Bill told Rolling Stone the children were raised Catholic. “We’ve raised our kids in a religious way,” he said. “They’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in.”

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Rolling Stone

Bill and Melinda would read books from a range of genres to their kids as they grew up, from “Guess How Much I Love You” to “Fahrenheit 451.”

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Business Insider

Gates has said his wife is a driving force when it comes to bringing the family together. “Melinda is very creative about helping me find chances to spend time with the kids,” Gates wrote in a 2017 Reddit AMA. “Even just driving them to school is a great time to talk to them.”

bill gates

Source: Reddit

Each of the Gates’ kids will inherit about $10 million of their parents’ $98.1 billion fortune, while much of the rest will go to charitable causes.

Bill Gates Jennifer Gates

Source: Business InsiderTED, Bankrate.com

“We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing,” Bill told TED.

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Business InsiderTED, Bankrate.com

The Gates also support their kids in other ways. The couple spent $37 million purchasing a string of Wellington, Florida properties in 2016. The reason? Their daughter Jennifer is a nationally ranked show jumper, and the Florida town is the equestrian capital of the US.

Jennifer Gates

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider, Business Insider

Melinda has said her relationship with her husband has changed over time. “We’ve had to change to really be coequals,” she said. “It’s not something that immediately happens overnight, but we’re both committed to it.”

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Business InsiderFortune

Melinda said the couple still did the dishes together every night to keep the partnership equal.

bill and melinda gates

Source: Business Insider

According to Melinda, Bill was used to being in charge from his Microsoft days when they first started the foundation.

Bill and Melinda Gates
Melinda and Bill Gates.

Source: Gates Notes

But these days, Bill and Melinda work as partners at the foundation. They both received Presidential Medals of Freedom in 2016 from President Barack Obama for their efforts.

Melinda Bill Gates

Source: Business Insider, The White House

They work to make sure their schedules are synchronized, complimentary, and balanced. “Melinda and I look over our schedules a lot to make sure we are balancing things well,” Gates wrote in a 2018 Reddit AMA.

Bill Gates

Source: Reddit

In response to a question about how the couple handles arguments, Melinda jokingly wrote “we never disagree” in the Gates’ 2018 annual letter.

Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, Bill Gates Sr., Mimi Gates

Source: Gates Notes

“Our occasional disagreements these days are over tactics. Because I’ve been a public figure longer, and because I’m a man, some people assume I am making the big decisions. That’s never been the case,” Bill wrote in the Gates Foundation’s annual letter for 2018.

Bill and Melinda Gates TED

Source: Gates Notes

Melinda added that the couple avoids serious disagreements by sharing fundamental values, trust, and a sense of open-mindedness.

Bill and Melinda Gates
Melinda and Bill Gates.

Source: Gates Notes

Warren Buffett, who is close with the couple, told Fortune that Bill was “smart as hell, obviously,” but that “in terms of seeing the whole picture,” Melinda was smarter.

Bill Gates Melinda Warren Buffett

Source: Fortune, Business Insider

In a Reddit AMA, Gates disclosed that his wife and Buffett were his two favorite celebrities…

Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett speaks to the media with Bill and Melinda Gates June 26, 2006 at a news conference where Buffett spoke about his financial gift to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in New York City.

Source: Reddit

… followed by Bono and Jimmy Carter. He added that Nelson Mandela was the most impressive political leader he’s ever met.

bono munich security conference 2017
Musician Bono from U2 reacts at the opening of the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Source: Reddit

When it comes to their working partnership, Bill wrote that the perception that Melinda is “the heart” of the organization is a bit of a stereotype, in the 2018 annual letter.

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Gates Notes

“Just as she knows I’m more emotional than people realize, I know she’s more analytical than people realize. When I get really enthusiastic about something, I count on her to make sure I’m being realistic.”

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Gates Notes

“Melinda and I believe that everyone deserves the chance for a healthy and productive life – and so with the help of our amazing partners, we are working to find innovative ways to help people in need all over the world,” Bill wrote during one of his Reddit AMAs.

Bill Gates Melinda

Source: Reddit

Bill announced on May 3 the couple made the decision to end their marriage.

 

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” Bill Gates said in a tweet. “Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.”

Source: Twitter

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