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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gates Meets With His Shareholders




BELLEVUE, Washington -- He got a prolonged standing ovation on the way to the podium, and he was mobbed by autograph seekers on the way out.


But in between Bill Gates, the Microsoft chairman, fielded questions from his shareholders at the company's annual meeting Wednesday that he might not have faced a week ago, questions about whether his legal team had failed him and whether the company might even be broken up in the wake of its antitrust fight with the federal government.


In the main, the 44-year-old co-founder of the company was speaking to a friendly audience, and he reiterated his stance that Microsoft's "innovations and behavior were completely fair and brought tremendous benefits to millions of consumers.''


The meeting came five days after a federal judge issued a harsh denunciation of the company in the antitrust case, saying it had abused its monopoly power to bully and thwart the competition.


But during a question-and-answer session with the shareholders, Gates did hear from one man who spoke of "the feelings of disappointment at best that I have and humiliation at worst that I have at how the case against Microsoft was handled by our counsel.''


With the company's general counsel and chief legal strategist, William Neukom, seated on the dais with Gates, the shareholder asked the chairman whether he might hire a new legal team so that "we are not outrun and outmaneuvered by the government,'' putting such a sarcastic emphasis on the word "government'' that several in the audience laughed or applauded.


But Gates launched into a defense of the company's legal approach.


"It's pretty important in a case like this not to look in a very superficial way for someone to blame,'' Gates said. "When the government decides they're going to block innovation, your own government decides they're going to take you to court and say you should not make those kinds of advances, it's not going to be a pleasant experience. It's not going to be something that anyone should have to go through.''