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Paul Allen

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For other people named Paul Allen, see Paul Allen (disambiguation).
Paul Allen
Paul G. Allen.jpg
Paul G. Allen at Flying Heritage Collection, April 2013
Born Paul Gardner Allen
(1953-01-21) January 21, 1953 (age 62)
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 Increase US$ 17.5 billion (March 2015)[1]

Paul Gardner Allen (born January 21, 1953) is an American philanthropist, investor and innovator, best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation alongside Bill Gates. As of January 2015, he was estimated to be the 51st richest person in the world, with an estimated wealth of $17.5 billion.[1]

Allen 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),[2] and the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association (NBA)[3] and is part-owner of the Seattle Sounders FC, which joined Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2009.[4]

He is also the founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science,[5] the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence,[6] the Allen Institute for Cell Science [7] and Stratolaunch Systems.[8]

Early life and career[edit]

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.[9] 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.[10] They used Lakeside's Teletype terminal to develop their programming skills on several time-sharing computer systems.[10] 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,[11] but dropped out after two years in order to work as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston, placing him near his old friend again.[10] Allen later convinced Gates to drop out of Harvard University in order to create Microsoft.


Main article: History of Microsoft

Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1975, and began marketing a BASIC programming language interpreter.[10] Allen came up with the original name of "Micro-Soft," as recounted in a 1995 Fortune magazine article.[12] 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.[10]

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.[10] 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.[13]


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.[14]
  • 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.”[18]
  • In 2009, Allen's philanthropy as the long-time owner of the Trail Blazers was recognized with an Oregon Sports Award[19]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[22]
  • On October 15, 2012, Allen received the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts at the National Arts Awards.[24]
  • On October 22, 2014, Allen received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Seattle Business Magazine for his impact in and around the greater Puget Sound region.[26]
  • On December 31, 2014, Online philanthropy magazine, Inside Philanthropy, made Allen their inaugural "Philanthropist of the Year" [27] for his ongoing effort to stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, breaking ground on a new research center in Seattle, and his battle to save the world's oceans.


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.[28] In 2010, Allen became a signatory of The Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half of his fortune to philanthropic causes.[29] In December 2014, Inside Philanthropy named Allen as their "Philanthropist of the Year;"[27] Allen's direct giving in 2013 totaled $206 million.[30]

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation[edit]

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 $494 million to over 1,500 nonprofits.[31] 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.[31]

Scientific endeavors[edit]

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.[32]
  • 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.[33]
  • Allen Institute for Cell Science: In December 2014, Paul Allen committed $100 million to create the Allen Institute for Cell Science in Seattle. The institute will investigate and model the complex living machinery of cells in the hope of bringing forth treatment of different diseases.[34]
  • 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.[35]
  • Allen Telescope Array: Paul Allen donated the seed money to build SETI's radio telescope array, eventually contributing $30 million to the project.[36]
  • 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.[37]

Paul Allen is a founding member of The International SeaKeepers Society and hosts its proprietary SeaKeeper 1000TM oceanographic and atmospheric monitoring system on all three of his megayachts.[38]

Allen has a flower fly named after him for his contributions to Dipterology, called Paul Allen's flower fly.[39]


In 2014, Paul Allen pledged at least $100 million toward the fight to end the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa,[40] making him the largest private donor in the Ebola crisis. He also created a website called[41] as a way to spread awareness as well as serve as a way donors can fund projects in need. The site additionally highlights organizations working to stop Ebola that Allen supports such as UNICEF, Médecins Sans Frontières and International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Museums and collections[edit]

Over the years, Paul Allen has established several non-profit community institutions that feature his private collections of historic artifacts. These include:

  • 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.[45][46]

The arts[edit]

An active art collector, Paul Allen has gifted more than $100 million to support the arts.[47] On October 15, 2012, the Americans for the Arts awarded Allen with the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts.[48] 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,[49] surpassing its estimate of $30 million to $40 million.[50]


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.[51] In the same year, Allen donated an additional $8 million to establish the Kenneth S. Allen Library Endowment.[52] In 2012, the endowment was renamed the Kenneth S. and Faye G. Allen Library Endowment after Allen's mother (a noted bibliophile) passed away.[53]

In 2002, Allen donated $14 million to the University of Washington to construct the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering.[54] The building was dedicated in October 2003.[55]

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.[56]

Business holdings and investments[edit]

See also: Vulcan Inc.

Financial and technology[edit]

  • 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.[57] Recent investments include Redfin, and Audience Inc.
  • Apps: Allen backed A.R.O., the startup behind the mobile app Saga;[59] SportStream, a social app for sports fans;[60] and a content-management app called Fayve.[61]
  • 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.[65]

Aerospace and defense[edit]

(L to R) Marion Blakely, FAA - Chief. Commercial Astronaut- "Mike" Melvill - Sir Richard Branson - "Burt" Rutan - Brian Binnie & Paul Gardner Allen reflect on a mission accomplished (October 4, 2004)
Paul Allen (third from right) and Burt Rutan (fifth from right) were presented with the Ansari X PRIZE by members of the X PRIZE Foundation in 2004.

Allen confirmed that he was the sole investor behind Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne suborbital commercial spacecraft on October 4, 2004.[66] 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.[67]

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.[68] 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.[69]

Real estate[edit]

Allen's Vulcan Real Estate division offers a full range of development and portfolio management services from site selection and urban planning to build-to-suit construction, leasing and asset repositioning. Its real estate model is based on quality, sustainable development that builds new value across the entire community. Vulcan Real Estate is widely known for the redevelopment of the South Lake Union neighborhood immediately north of downtown Seattle and nestled along the south shore of Lake Union. Today South Lake Union is a mixed-use neighborhood that is home to many innovative companies that are leaders in technology, life sciences, global health and business, many of which are located in Vulcan developed properties.[70] Vulcan has developed 6.3 million square feet of new residential, office, retail and biotechnology research space and has a total development capacity of 10,000,000 square feet (930,000 m2). The South Lake Union redevelopment represents one of the largest urban revitalization projects in the country. Allen's investments in South Lake Union have proven to be an economic catalyst and more than $5.7 billion has been invested in the neighborhood since 2002 for development projects and public infrastructure improvements. Vulcan advocated for 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; The LID provided 50% of the funding while the remainder came from Federal and State sources with no city money used for its development costs.[71] The streetcar officially started operation on December 12, 2007. This development has been criticized as a city-supported real estate investment for Vulcan Inc.,[72] 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 for US$1.16 billion, one of the most expensive office deals ever in Seattle.[73] "It's exceeded my expectations," Mr. Allen said of the South Lake Union development.

In September 2014, Vulcan made a commitment to invest $200 million at Yesler Terrace where it will purchase three land parcels from the Seattle Housing Authority as part of an ambitious redevelopment plan for the 30 acre site located southeast of downtown Seattle.[74]


  • 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 installed the world's first commercial digital laser projector in 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.



Main article: Octopus (yacht)

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.[75] 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.[76]

Allen has loaned Octopus, which is equipped with a submarine and ROV, for a variety of rescue and research operations,[77] 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.[78]

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 World War II, as a national memorial.[79] In March of 2015, an Allen-led research team found the Japanese battleship Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea off the coast of the Philippines.[80] Musashi and her sister ship Yamato were two of the largest and most technologically impressive battleships in naval history.

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.[81]

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.[82][83][84]

Allen also owns Tatoosh, one of the world's 100 largest yachts.

Sports team ownership[edit]

Portland Trail Blazers[edit]

Allen purchased the Portland Trail Blazers NBA team in 1988 from California real estate developer Larry Weinberg for $70 million.[3] He was also instrumental in the development and funding of the Rose Garden, the arena where the Blazers play, in 1993.[10] The Blazers were valued at $587 million in January 2014 according to,[85] ranked No. 12 out of 30 NBA teams.[86] 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.[87] 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."[88]

Seattle Seahawks[edit]

Allen purchased the Seattle Seahawks NFL team in 1997 when former owner Ken Behring threatened to move the Seahawks to Southern California.[2] "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."[89] The Seahawks were valued at $1.33 billion in August 2014 by Forbes, which says the team has "one of the most rabid fan bases in the NFL."[90] Under the helm of Allen the Seattle Seahawks won three NFC Championships (2005, 2013, 2014) and won Super Bowl XLVIII 43-8 after the 2013 season.[91]

Seattle Sounders FC[edit]

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.[4] 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.

Filmmaking career[edit]

Paul Allen and his sister Jody Allen are the owners and executive producers of Vulcan Productions,[92] 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[93] to Independent Spirit Awards,[94] Grammys[95] and Emmys.[95] The films have also been nominated for Golden Globes[95] and Academy Awards[94] among many others. Vulcan Productions' films and documentary projects include Far from Heaven[94] (2002), Hard Candy[96] (2005), Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge[97][98] (2005), Where God Left His Shoes[99] (2006), Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial[100][101] (2007), This Emotional Life[102][103] (2010), We The Economy [104] (2014) and Racing Extinction[105] (2015).

In 2013, Vulcan Productions co-produced the Richard E. Robbins-directed film Girl Rising[106] 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,[107] 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.[108]

Also in 2013, Vulcan Productions signed on as a producing partner of Pandora's Promise,[109] 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.[110]

Writing career[edit]

Paul Allen and the Underthinkers perform at the Allen Institute for Brain Science's 10th Anniversary Gala.

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.[111][112]

Musical aspirations[edit]

Paul Allen received his first electric guitar at the age of sixteen, and was inspired to play it by listening to Jimi Hendrix.[113] In 2000, Allen played rhythm guitar on the independently-produced and eponymous album Grown Men.[114] In 2013, he had a major label release on Sony's Legacy Recordings; Everywhere at Once by Paul Allen and the Underthinkers.[115] described Everywhere at Once as “a quality release of blues-rock that's enjoyable from start to finish.”[116][117]

See also[edit]


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  113. ^ Allen, Paul (2011). Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft. New York: Portfolio/Penguin. p. 250. ISBN 978-1-59184-382-5. 
  114. ^ "The Spokesman-Review". April 17, 2000. 
  115. ^ "Paul Allen: Plugged-in mogul". 
  116. ^ "Paul Allen and the Underthinkers: Everywhere at Once". August 5, 2013. 
  117. ^ "10 Things You Didn't Know About Microsoft Billionaire Paul Allen, Seattle Seahawks Owner". Forbes. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Ken Behring
Seattle Seahawks owner
Preceded by
Larry Weinberg
Portland Trail Blazers owner
Preceded by
(expansion team)
Seattle Sounders FC owner