You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Gates to Leave Boards of Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 3/13/2020 Aaron Tilley

Bill Gates smiles during a game of bridge after the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 5, 2019. © AP Photo/Nati Harnik Bill Gates smiles during a game of bridge after the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 5, 2019.

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates is stepping down from the company’s board of directors, marking the biggest boardroom departure in the tech industry since the death of longtime rival and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs.

Mr. Gates, who also is vacating his board seat at Berkshire Hathaway Inc., intends to focus more on his philanthropic efforts. He will continue to serve as a technical adviser to Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella, the software company said late Friday.

Mr. Gates, who is 64 years old, founded Microsoft in 1975 with childhood friend Paul Allen. He built up the company into one of the most powerful forces in the burgeoning industry of personal computing. In 2000, he handed the role of CEO to longtime colleague Steve Ballmer, but he remained active at the Redmond, Wash.-based company as its chairman.

Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs, who died in 2011, became the faces most closely associated with the rise of personal computers. Microsoft and Apple now rank as the two largest public companies, each with a market value of more than $1.2 trillion.

“Microsoft will always be an important part of my life’s work and I will continue to be engaged with Satya and the technical leadership to help shape the vision and achieve the company’s ambitious goals,” Mr. Gates wrote in a LinkedIn post announcing his departure.

Get news and analysis on politics, policy, national security and more, delivered right to your inbox

Microsoft dominated computing in the 1990s with its Windows operating system and Office productivity applications. Its position attracted regulatory scrutiny, leading the U.S. Justice Department to sue the company in 1997 for illegally bundling its Internet Explorer web browser with Windows, at one point raising the prospect of the company being broken up on antitrust grounds. The eventual settlement with the Justice Department placed limits on how Microsoft operates but kept the software giant intact.

The success of Windows helped turn Mr. Gates, a Harvard University dropout, into one of the world’s richest people. He has plowed some of that wealth into his foundation and other philanthropic causes.

Mr. Gates in 2008 scaled back involvement in day-to-day operations of Microsoft, focusing more on work the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 2014, when Mr. Nadella was appointed CEO of the company, Mr. Gates stepped down as chairman but stayed on as a board member and technology adviser. He continued to influence strategic decisions at Microsoft and visit its offices.

James Whittaker, a former distinguished engineer at Microsoft who left the company in 2019, said Mr. Gates continued to show up at Microsoft’s campus once or twice a month. He would frequently weigh in on issues affecting the company. “Whatever Bill says becomes law,” Mr. Whittaker said.

Most recently, Mr. Gates spent a lot of his time at Microsoft on devising tools that could make businesses more productive, said S. Somasegar, a former Microsoft corporate vice president who left in 2015 and is now a managing director at Seattle venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group. Microsoft has been one of several tech companies to promote so-called low-code tools to make it easier for regular employees to write software applications.

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, who has a long-running friendship with Mr. Gates, said former American Express Co. CEO Kenneth Chenault would replace Mr. Gates on the conglomerate’s board. Mr. Chenault, who joined Facebook Inc.’s board in 2018, won’t seek re-election, the social-media company said Friday.

Write to Aaron Tilley at


More from The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal.
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon