Paul G. Allen at Flying Heritage Collection, April 2013
|Born||Paul Gardner Allen
21 January 1953
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
|Residence||Mercer Island, Washington, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Washington State University (Dropped out in 1974)|
|Occupation||Co-founder of Microsoft
Chairman of Vulcan Inc.
|Net worth||US$ 16.4 billion (September 2014)|
Paul Gardner Allen (born 21 January 1953) is an American philanthropist, investor and innovator, best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, with Bill Gates. As of August 2014, he was estimated to be the 55th richest person in the world, with an estimated wealth of $16.2 billion.
Beyond Microsoft, he is the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc., which manages his various business and philanthropic efforts. Allen also has a multi-billion dollar investment portfolio including technology companies, real estate holdings, and stakes in other technology and media companies. He owns two professional sports teams, the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL), and the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and is part-owner of the Seattle Sounders FC, which joined Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2009.
- 1 Early life and career
- 2 Philanthropy
- 3 Business holdings and investments
- 4 Sports team ownership
- 5 Filmmaking career
- 6 Writing career
- 7 Musical aspirations
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Early life and career
Paul Allen was born in Seattle, Washington, to parents Kenneth Sam Allen, an associate director of the University of Washington libraries, and Edna Faye (née Gardner) Allen, on January 21, 1953. Allen attended Lakeside School, a private school in Seattle, and befriended Bill Gates, who was almost three years younger and shared a common enthusiasm for computers. They used Lakeside's Teletype terminal to develop their programming skills on several time-sharing computer systems. After earning a perfect score of 1600 on the SAT (pre-1995 scale), Allen went to Washington State University, where he joined Phi Kappa Theta fraternity, but dropped out after two years in order to work as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston, placing him near his old friend again. Allen later convinced Gates to drop out of Harvard University in order to create Microsoft.
Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1975, and began marketing a BASIC programming language interpreter. Allen came up with the original name of "Micro-Soft," as recounted in a 1995 Fortune magazine article. In 1980, after promising to deliver IBM a Disk Operating System (DOS) they had not yet developed for the Intel 8088-based IBM PC, Allen spearheaded a deal for Microsoft to purchase a Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS) written by Tim Paterson who, at the time, was employed at Seattle Computer Products. As a result of this transaction, Microsoft was able to secure a contract to supply the DOS that would eventually run on IBM's PC line. This contract with IBM was the watershed in Microsoft history that led to Allen and Gates' wealth.
Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1982. His cancer was successfully treated by several months of radiation therapy. However, he did not return to Microsoft and began distancing himself from the company. Allen officially resigned from his position on the Microsoft Board of Directors in November 2000 but was asked to consult as a senior strategy advisor to the company's executives and still owns a reported 100 million shares.
Paul Allen has received various awards recognizing many different areas including sports, philanthropy, and the arts:
- On March 9, 2005, Paul Allen, Burt Rutan, and the SpaceShipOne team were awarded the 2005 National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement.
- In 2008, Allen received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Watson School of Biological Sciences.
- He received the Vanguard Award from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association on May 20, 2008.
- On October 30, 2008, the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors honored Allen for his “unwavering commitment to nonprofit organizations in the Pacific Northwest and lifetime giving approaching US$1 billion.”
- In 2009, Allen's philanthropy as the long-time owner of the Trail Blazers was recognized with an Oregon Sports Award
- Allen has received awards and honorary degrees from several universities. In May 1999, Washington State University bestowed its highest honor, the Regents' Distinguished Alumnus Award, upon him. He received a Docteur honoris causa from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne on March 31, 2007.
- On October 26, 2010, Paul Allen was awarded the W.J.S. Krief Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the field of neuroscience by the Cajal Club.
- On January 26, 2011 at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, Paul Allen was named Seattle Sports Commission Sports Citizen of the Year, an award that has been renamed the Paul Allen Award.
- On October 15, 2012, Allen received the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts at the National Arts Awards.
- On February 2, 2014, Allen received the Super Bowl ring as the Seattle Seahawks won the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Paul Allen has given more than $1.8 billion towards the advancement of science, technology, education, wildlife conservation, the arts and community services in his lifetime. In 2010, Allen became a signatory of The Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half of his fortune to philanthropic causes. In February, The Chronicle of Philanthropy 2014 named Allen as no. 11 on a list of the 50 most generous donors in 2014; Allen’s direct giving in 2014 totaled $206 million. In 2014 Paul Allen pledged to donate at least $100 million dollars to help combat Ebola in the United States and in other affected countries. Allen's foundation previously pledged $26.5 million.
Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation was established in 1988 to administer a portion of Paul Allen’s philanthropic contributions. Between 1990-2014, the Foundation gave away more than $500 million to over 1,500 nonprofits. The majority of the funds were given to projects with a focus on science and technology ($184.4 million), arts and culture ($109.3 million) and community development and social change ($98.2 million) as well as many other causes. During that period, 57% of the Foundation's money went to nonprofit organizations in Seattle and Washington State, 18% was distributed across other states in the Pacific Northwest, and 25% went to national and international organizations outside of the Pacific Northwest.
Paul Allen has founded and provided support to many scientific endeavors, including:
- Allen Institute for Brain Science: The Allen Institute for Brain Science is a Seattle-based non-profit dedicated to understanding how the human brain works. In total, Paul Allen has donated $500 million to the Allen Institute for Brain Science, making it his single largest philanthropic recipient. Allen launched the institute in 2003 with a $100 million donation, and contributed another $100 million after it completed the Allen Mouse Brain Atlas and other early initiatives. In 2012, Allen expanded the scope of the institute and infused it with an additional $300 million pledge. The Allen Institute for Brain Science makes research tools freely available to the scientific community using an open data model.
- Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence: In fall of 2013, Paul Allen announced the expansion of Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a new research institution that will be modeled after the Allen Institute for Brain Science.
- Allen Distinguished Investigators: Allen launched a grant program in 2010 to support scientists pursuing early-stage research projects who often have difficulty securing funding from traditional sources.
- Allen Telescope Array: Paul Allen donated the seed money to build SETI’s radio telescope array, eventually contributing $30 million to the project.
- Wildlife Conservation: Allen bankrolled a range of wildlife conservation projects in Africa over the past several years. Allen contributed nearly $10 million in direct gifts and grants to African charities and projects, including protecting lions in Namibia, developing a migratory corridor for elephants in Tanzania, and protecting gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Museums and collections
Over the years, Paul Allen has established several non-profit community institutions that feature his private collections of historic artifacts. These include:
- EMP Museum, a collection of rock ’n’ roll and pop culture exhibits inside a Frank Gehry-designed building at Seattle Center, established in 2000. The EMP Museum also houses the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.
- Flying Heritage Collection, which showcases restored vintage military aircraft and armaments primarily from the World War II era, established in 2004.
- STARTUP Gallery, a permanent exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque dedicated to the history of the microcomputer, established in 2007.
- Living Computer Museum, a collection of vintage computers in working order and available for interactive sessions on-site or through networked access, opened to the public in 2012.
An active art collector, Paul Allen has gifted more than $100 million to support the arts. On October 15, 2012, the Americans for the Arts awarded Allen with the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts. Allen has also loaned out more than 300 pieces from his private art collection to 47 different venues. In 2013, Allen sold Barnett Newman’s Onement VI (1953) at Sotheby’s in New York for $43.8 million, surpassing its estimate of $30 million to $40 million.
In 1989, Paul Allen donated $2 million to the University of Washington to construct the Allen Library, which was named after his father Kenneth S. Allen, a former associate director of the University of Washington library system. In the same year, Allen donated an additional $8 million to establish the Kenneth S. Allen Library Endowment. In 2012, the endowment was renamed the Kenneth S. and Faye G. Allen Library Endowment after Allen’s mother (a noted bibliophile) passed away.
In 2010, Allen announced a gift of $26 million to build the Paul G. Allen School of Global Animal Health at Washington State University, his alma mater. The gift is the largest private donation in the university’s history.
Business holdings and investments
Financial and technology
- Vulcan Capital is the investment-arm of Allen's Seattle-based Vulcan Inc., which manages his personal fortune. In 2013, Allen opened a new Vulcan Capital office in Palo Alto, California to focus on making new investments in emerging technology and internet companies. Recent investments include Redfin, Decide.com and Audience Inc.
- Apps: Allen is the backer of A.R.O., the startup behind the mobile app Saga; SportStream, a social app for sports fans; and a content-management app called Fayve.
- Interval Research Corporation: In 1992, Allen and David Liddle co-founded Interval Research Corporation, a Silicon Valley-based laboratory and new business incubator that was dissolved in 2000 after generating over 300 patents, four of which were the subject of Allen's August 2010 patent infringement lawsuit against AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo!, and YouTube.
- Ticketmaster: In 1993, Paul Allen invested $243 million to acquire 80% of Ticketmaster. In 1997, Home Shopping Network acquired 47.5% of Allen's stock for $209 million worth of HSN stock.
Aerospace and defense
Allen confirmed that he was the sole investor behind Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne suborbital commercial spacecraft on October 4, 2004. SpaceShipOne climbed to an altitude of 377,591 feet (115,090 m) and was the first privately funded effort to successfully put a civilian in suborbital space. It won the Ansari X Prize competition and received the $10 million prize.
On December 13, 2011, Allen announced the creation of Stratolaunch Systems. Stratolaunch is a proposed orbital launch system consisting of a dual-bodied, 6 engine jet aircraft, capable of carrying a rocket to high altitude; the rocket would then separate from its carrier aircraft and fire its own engines to complete its climb into orbit. If successful, this project would be the first wholly privately funded space transport system. Stratolanch, which is partnering with Orbital Sciences Corporation and Scaled Composites, is intended to launch in inclement weather, fly without worrying about the availability of launch pads and to operate from different locations. Stratolaunch plans to ultimately host six to ten missions per year.
Allen's Vulcan Real Estate division is a key property developer and investor in the development of the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle as a biotechnology hub and mixed-use community. Allen is also the largest private landowner in South Lake Union and owns nearly 2,600,000 square feet (240,000 m2) in the neighborhood. His holdings company has a development capacity of more than 10,000,000 square feet (930,000 m2) of new residential, office, retail and biotech research space. The South Lake Union redevelopment represents one of the largest urban revitalization projects in the country. Allen has made investments estimated at US$200 million as of 2005, and promoted for city funding of the Seattle Streetcar line known as South Lake Union Streetcar, which runs from Seattle's Westlake Center to the south end of Lake Union. The Streetcar is a public and private partnership made possible because of a Local Improvement District (LID) supported by businesses and residents along the line; it officially started operation on December 12, 2007. This development has been criticized as a city-supported real estate investment for Vulcan Inc., and concerns over the loss of low-income housing have been expressed.
In 2012, The Wall Street Journal called Allen's South Lake Union investment "unexpectedly lucrative" and one that led to his firm selling a 1,800,000 square feet (170,000 m2) office complex to Amazon.com for US$1.16 billion, one of the most expensive office deals ever in Seattle. "It's exceeded my expectations," Mr. Allen said of the South Lake Union development.
- Sports & Event Centers: Allen invested more than $150 million in Portland’s Moda Center, which he now owns outright. He also contributed more than $140 million to help build CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
- Seattle Cinerama: Allen purchased Seattle’s historic Cinerama Theater in 1998, and upgraded it with 3-D capability and digital sound, in addition to interior and exterior refurbishing. The theater is set to install the world’s first commercial digital laser projector in early 2014.
- Hospital Club: Allen opened the Hospital Club in London in 2002 as a professional and social hub for people working in the creative arts.
The launch of Paul Allen's 414 feet (126 m) yacht, Octopus, secured its position as one of the world's largest yachts in 2003. As of 2013, it is 14th in the list of motor yachts by length. The yacht is equipped with two helicopters, two submarines, a swimming pool, a music studio and a basketball court.
Allen has loaned Octopus, which is equipped with a submarine and ROV, for a variety of rescue and research operations, notably assisting in a hunt for an American pilot and two officers whose plane disappeared off Palau, and loaning his yacht to scientists to study a rare fish called a coelacanth. In 2012, he loaned the ship to the Royal Navy in their attempt to retrieve the bell from the HMS Hood, which sank in the Denmark Strait during WWII, as a national memorial. Octopus is a member of AMVER, a voluntary group ship reporting system used worldwide by authorities to arrange assistance for those in distress at sea.
Allen is known for throwing huge, celebrity-studded parties on his yacht, such as a 2005 New Year's Eve party in which he and his band played Johnny Cash songs with R&B star Usher. His band also played at another party he hosted during the Cannes film festival with keyboardist Dave Stewart.
Allen also owns Tatoosh, one of the world's 100 largest yachts.
Sports team ownership
Portland Trail Blazers
Allen purchased the Portland Trail Blazers NBA team in 1988 from California real estate developer Larry Weinberg for $70 million. He was also instrumental in the development and funding of the Rose Garden, the arena where the Blazers play, in 1993. The Blazers were valued at $587 million in January 2014 according to, ranked No. 12 out of 30 NBA teams. Allen announced the completion of the acquisition of the Rose Garden on April 2, 2007, and stated that this was a major milestone and a positive step for the franchise. In 2013, the Rose Garden was renamed the Moda Center, a move Allen said "will allow us to enhance virtually every aspect of the fan experience."
Allen purchased the Seattle Seahawks NFL team in 1997 when former owner Ken Behring threatened to move the Seahawks to Southern California. "I'm not sure anybody else in this community would have done what [Allen] did," Herman Sarkowsky, a former Seahawks minority owner, told The Seattle Times about Allen's decision to buy the team. "That was the birth of the stadium, and the birth of the stadium was the lifeline for the club we know today." The Seahawks were valued at $1.08 billion in August 2013 by Forbes, which says the team has "one of the most rabid fan bases in the NFL." Under the helm of Allen the Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl in 2014.
Seattle Sounders FC
Allen's Vulcan Sports & Entertainment is part of the ownership team of the Seattle Sounders FC, a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise that began play in 2009 at CenturyLink Field, a stadium also controlled by Allen. The ownership team also includes film producer Joe Roth, businessman Adrian Hanauer, and comedian Drew Carey. Sigi Schmid, two-time MLS Cup winner, is the team’s head coach.
The Sounders sold out every home game during its first season, setting a new MLS record for average match attendance and the most season tickets sold in the league. Seattle Sounders FC is only the second expansion team in MLS history to win the U.S. Open Cup tournament in its first season.
Paul Allen and his sister Jody Allen are the owners and executive producers of Vulcan Productions, a television and film production company headquartered in Seattle within the entertainment division of Vulcan Inc. Their films have received various recognition, ranging from a Peabody to Independent Spirit Awards, Grammys and Emmys. The films have also been nominated for Golden Globes and Academy Awards among many others. Vulcan Productions' films and documentary projects include Far from Heaven (2002), Hard Candy (2005), Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge (2005), Where God Left His Shoes (2006), Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (2007), and This Emotional Life (2010).
In 2013, Vulcan Productions co-produced the Richard E. Robbins-directed film Girl Rising which tells the stories of girls from different parts of the world who seek an education. Globally over 205 million households watched Girl Rising during the CNN and CNN International premieres, and over 4 million people have engaged with Girl Rising through websites and social media. Through the associated 10x10 program, over $2.1 million has been donated to help girls receive an education worldwide.
Also in 2013, Vulcan Productions signed on as a producing partner of Pandora's Promise, a documentary about nuclear power, directed by Oscar-nominated director Robert Stone. It was released in select theaters nationwide June 12, 2013 and on CNN on November 7, 2013. A variety of college and private screenings as well as panel discussions have been hosted throughout the country.
Allen's memoir, Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft, was released on April 19, 2011. The paperback version of Idea Man, which included a new epilogue, came out on October 30, 2012.
Paul Allen received his first electric guitar at the age of sixteen, and was inspired to play it by listening to Jimi Hendrix. In 2000, Allen played rhythm guitar on the independently-produced and eponymous album Grown Men. In 2013, he had a major label release on Sony's Legacy Recordings; Everywhere at Once by Paul Allen and the Underthinkers. PopMatters.com described Everywhere at Once as “a quality release of blues-rock that’s enjoyable from start to finish.”
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Paul Allen.|
- Paul Allen official home page
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Works by or about Paul Allen in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Paul Allen collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Paul Allen collected news and commentary at The Wall Street Journal
- Paul Allen entry from The Oregon Encyclopedia
- Paul Allen at THOCP.net
- Business profile at Forbes
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