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Allen, Paul G.


ALLEN, PAUL G. (1953– ), U.S. entrepreneur. As the co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation, Allen became one of the wealthiest (third-richest) men in the world. He also became one of the world's most active philanthropists, supporting the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, among other projects. In 2004 he gave away more than $500 million.

As a child, Allen attended Lakeside, a private school in Seattle known as a breeding ground for the city's future leaders. There he met Bill Gates and the two became fast friends. In 1975 someone brought to Lakeside a clunky Teletype-like computer and Allen convinced Gates that they should not miss out on the technology revolution. They set about developing an operating system for the computer, the Altair 8800, and succeeded.

Allen dropped out of Washington State University to work for Honeywell in Boston. There he again linked up with Gates, who was attending Harvard. They founded Microsoft in 1975. Allen had the programming expertise, Gates the financial acumen. In 1977 Allen said he expected the personal computer to become as much a part of everyday life as a telephone, and he envisioned innovations like E-mail and suggested the name Microsoft. He talked about a "wired world," a phrase he claims to have originated.

In 1982 Allen contracted Hodgkin's disease and endured months of radiation therapy. The following year, against Gates' wishes, Allen left Microsoft. The company did not go public for three years, but when it did, Allen's shares were worth $134 million. He invested $170 million in Ticketmaster, the computer-ticket service, and collected $568 million when he sold the stock in 2002. He then started Starwave, one of the first Internet content sites and in 1992 the first home to espn's sports coverage on the Web. Five years later he sold it to Walt Disney for $200 million. An early investor in, the online travel business, he invested $30 million in 1998 and collected $125 million when he sold his shares two years later. He was also a major investor in Dreamworks skg, the film and entertainment studio headed by Steven *Spielberg, Jeffrey *Katzenberg, and David *Geffen. For an investment of $675 million, Allen was given 18 percent of the company and a seat on the board. Not all of his investments were successful. In 2003 and 2004 Allen pared his portfolio from 100 to 40 companies. In 1999, according to Forbes magazine, Allen was worth $40 billion. By 2003 his fortune was "down" to $21 billion, Forbes estimated. Allen's grants to outside organizations and individuals have varied. Asked whether he had philanthropic role models, he pointed to the Stroum family, a prominent Jewish family in Seattle which supported the University of Washington, the Seattle Symphony, and local Jewish institutions. Allen had "a broad and diverse range of interests," according to Laura Rich, author of The Accidental Zillionaire: Demystifying Paul Allen. One of Allen's strongest interests was music. He played the guitar and collected memorabilia about Jimi Hendrix, the rock and blues guitarist and, like Allen, a Seattle native. Allen played with the Butcher Shop Boys (known for butchering songs, he said). He owned a recording studio and taught himself to play "Purple Haze," a Hendrix signature number.

Passionate about the arts, Allen hired Frank *Gehry to create an interactive rock 'n' roll museum, the Experience Music Project, in 2000 at a cost of $240 million. He was also involved in a documentary on blues music for public television and organized benefit concerts to raise money for music education and blues artists. He also supported efforts to increase public understanding of science. In 2001 his documentary company produced a seven-part television series on evolution and helped fund another documentary on global public health. In 2004 Allen provided the British entrepreneur Richard Branson with the funds to build an aircraft for manned commercial space flight.

Allen was keenly devoted to sports. He owned the Portland Trail Blazers, a professional basketball team, and paid $46 million of the $262 million cost of the Rose Garden, a 21,500-seat arena in which the team plays. He also bought the Seattle Seahawks, a professional football team. Allen lived alone – and well – on Mercer Island, an enclave of old Seattle wealth and new millionaires. In 2004 Allen's wealth was estimated at $18 billion, including $3.8 billion of Microsoft stock, enough to afford a 413-foot Octopus yacht, the world's largest and, at $200 million, the most expensive.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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