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Paul Allen

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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 63)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Residence Mercer Island, Washington, U.S.
Education Lakeside School
Alma mater Washington State University
Occupation Chairman and CEO Vulcan Inc.
Owner Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers
Part-owner Seattle Sounders
Founder Allen Institute for Brain Science
Founder Allen Institute for Cell Science
Founder Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence
Co-founder Microsoft
Net worth US$18.6 billion (August 2016)[1]
Parent(s) Kenneth Sam Allen
Edna Faye Allen
Relatives Jody Allen (sister)

Paul Gardner Allen (born January 21, 1953) is an American business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He is best known as the co-founder of Microsoft, alongside Bill Gates. As of August 2016, he was estimated to be the 40th richest person in the world, with an estimated wealth of $18.6 billion.[2]

Allen is the founder and Chief Executive Officer[3] of Vulcan Inc., which manages his various business and philanthropic efforts. Allen also has a multibillion-dollar investment portfolio including technology and media companies, real estate holdings, and stakes in other companies. He owns two professional sports teams: the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League[4] and the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association.[5] He is also part-owner of the Seattle Sounders FC, which in 2009, joined Major League Soccer.[6]

He is also the founder of Allen Institute for Brain Science,[7] Institute for Artificial Intelligence,[8] Institute for Cell Science[9] and Vulcan Aerospace.[10]

Early life and education[edit]

Paul Allen was born on January 21, 1953 in Seattle, Washington to Kenneth Sam Allen and Edna Faye (née Gardner) Allen.[11] Allen attended Lakeside School, a private school in Seattle, where he befriended Bill Gates, three years younger, with whom he shared an enthusiasm for computers.[12] They used Lakeside's Teletype terminal to develop their programming skills on several time-sharing computer systems.[12] After graduation, Allen went to Washington State University, where he joined Phi Kappa Theta fraternity,[13] but dropped out after two years in order to work as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston, near where Bill Gates had ended up as well.[12] Allen later convinced Gates to drop out of Harvard University in order to create Microsoft.[citation needed]


Main articles: History of Microsoft and Microsoft

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Paul Allen with his friend Bill Gates, in 1975, began marketing a BASIC programming language interpreter.[12] Allen came up with the original name of "Micro-Soft," as recounted in a 1995 Fortune magazine article.[14] 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) which was 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's and Gates' wealth and success.[12] Allen effectively left Microsoft in 1982 due to serious illness.[12] 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.[15]

Business ventures and investments[edit]

See also: Vulcan Inc.

Financial and technology[edit]


Allen confirmed that he was the sole investor behind Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne suborbital commercial spacecraft on October 4, 2004.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27] Stratolaunch, 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.[28] On April 13, 2015, Vulcan Aerospace was announced. It is the company within Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc. that plans and executes projects to shift how the world conceptualizes space travel through cost reduction and on-demand access.[29]

Real Estate[edit]

Allen's Vulcan Real Estate division offers development and portfolio management services, and is known for the redevelopment of the South Lake Union neighborhood immediately north of downtown Seattle.[30] 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). 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.[31] 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.[32] "It's exceeded my expectations," Allen said of the South Lake Union development.


  • Sports and 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.

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.[5] He was instrumental in the development and funding of the Moda Center (previously known as the Rose Garden), the arena where the Blazers play. He purchased the arena on April 2, 2007, and stated that this was a major milestone and a positive step for the franchise.[12][33] Since taking over the franchise, the Allen-owned Trail Blazers have reached the playoffs 19 times including the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992 (As of July 2015)[34] According to Forbes, the Blazers were valued at $940 million in 2015 and ranked No. 12 out of 30 NBA teams.[35]

Seattle Seahawks[edit]

Main article: Seattle Seahawks

Allen purchased the Seattle Seahawks NFL team in 1996 when former owner Ken Behring threatened to move the Seahawks to Southern California.[4] Herman Sarkowsky, a former Seahawks minority owner, told The Seattle Times about Allen's decision to buy the team, "I'm not sure anybody else in this community would have done what [Allen] did."[36] The Seahawks are 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."[37] Under the helm of Allen, the Seahawks have been to the Super Bowl three times winning Super Bowl XLVIII and have won three NFC Championships (2005, 2013, 2014).[38]

Seattle Sounders FC[edit]

Main article: Seattle Sounders

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.[6] The ownership team also includes film producer Joe Roth, businessman Adrian Hanauer, and comedian Drew Carey. 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,[39] 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[40] to Independent Spirit Awards,[41] Grammys[42] and Emmys. In 2014 alone, Allen's film, We The Economy, won 12 awards including a Webby award for best Online News & Politics Series. The films have also been nominated for Golden Globes[42] and Academy Awards[41] among many others. Vulcan Productions' films and documentary projects include Far from Heaven[41] (2002), Hard Candy[43] (2005), Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge[44][45] (2005), Where God Left His Shoes[46] (2006), Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial[47][48] (2007), This Emotional Life[49][50] (2010), We The Economy[51] (2014) Racing Extinction[52] (2015) and Oscar-nominated Body Team 12[53] (2015).

In 2013, Vulcan Productions co-produced the Richard E. Robbins-directed film Girl Rising[54] 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,[55] 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.[56]

Also in 2013, Vulcan Productions signed on as a producing partner of Pandora's Promise,[57] 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.[58]


Paul Allen has given more than $2 billion towards the advancement of science, technology, education, wildlife conservation, the arts and community services in his lifetime.[59] The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation was established to administer a portion of Allen's philanthropic contributions. Since its formation, the foundation has given more than $494 million to over 1,500 nonprofits and[60] in 2010, Allen became a signatory of The Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half of his fortune to philanthropic causes.[61] Allen has received commendations for his philanthropic commitments including the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy[62] and Inside Philanthropy's "Philanthropist of the Year."[63]

Science and research[edit]

Paul G. Allen (right) studies a brain sample with Allen Institute for Brain Science's CEO Allan Jones.

In September 2003, Allen launched the Allen Institute for Brain Science with a $100 million contribution dedicated to understanding how the human brain works. In total, Paul Allen has donated $500 million to the institute, making it his single largest philanthropic recipient. Since its launch, the Allen Institute for Brain Science has taken a Big Science and Open Science approach to tackle projects. The institute makes research tools available to the scientific community using an open data model.[64] Some of the institute's most notable projects include the Allen Mouse Brain Atlas, Allen Human Brain Atlas and the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas. The Allen Institute is also helping to advance and shape the White House's BRAIN Initiative as well as the Human Brain Project.[65]

Founded in 2014, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) main focus is to research and engineer artificial intelligence.[66] The Institute is modeled after the Allen Institute for Brain Science and led by researcher and professor, Dr. Oren Etzioni. AI2 has undertaken four main projects, Aristo, Semantic Scholar, Euclid and Plato. Project Aristo is working to build an AI system capable of passing an 8th grade science exam.[67]

In December 2014, Allen committed $100 million to create the Allen Institute for Cell Science in Seattle. The institute is investigating and creating a virtual model of cells in the hope of bringing forth treatment of different diseases.[68] Like the institutes before it, all data generated and tools developed will be made publicly available online.[69]

Launched in 2016 with a $100 million commitment, The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group aims to discover and support ideas at the frontier of bioscience in an effort accelerate the pace of discovery.[70] The group is led by Tom Skalak and will be targeting scientists and research areas that ″some might consider out-of-the-box at the very edges of knowledge.″[71]

Allen launched the Allen Distinguished Investigators Awards (ADI) in 2010 to support scientists pursuing early-stage research projects who often have difficulty securing funding from traditional sources.[72] The ADI grant program backs pioneering researchers in the areas of emerging life sciences technology to cellular decision-making and neural engineering with the intent that research made possible by these grants will advance each respective field.

Paul Allen donated the seed money to build SETI's Allen Telescope Array, eventually contributing $30 million to the project.[73]

Allen has a flower fly named after him for his contributions to Dipterology, called Paul Allen's flower fly.[74]

Environment and conservation[edit]

Allen has bankrolled a range of wildlife conservation projects over the past several years, including contributing millions in direct gifts and grants to program, projects, initiatives and charities. By marrying technology development with philanthropic interests, he is working to address the trafficking of endangered species and ensure stable or thriving generations of wild animals.

Allen provided more than $7 million to fund the census, the largest pan-African aerial survey since the 1970s. The Great Elephant Census team is flying over 20 countries to survey the African savannah elephants with hopes that the accurate and up-to-date data will spur immediate protective actions and long-term conservation management plans.[75]

Allen began supporting the University of British Columbia's Sea Around Us Project in 2014 to improve data on global fisheries as a way to fight illegal fishing. Part of his $2.6 million in funding will go to create FishBase,[76] an online database about adult finfish.[77]

Launched in July 2015, Paul Allen is funding the Global FinPrint initiative, a three-year survey of sharks and rays in coral reef areas. The survey is the largest of its kind and designed to provide data to help conservation programs. The initiative is a partnership between Allen's Vulcan Inc, Stony Brook University, Florida International University, James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences. Survey results will be made available in summer 2018.[78]

Allen backed Washington state initiative 1401 to prohibit the purchase, sale and distribution of products made from 10 endangered species including elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, pangolins, sharks and rays. The initiative gained enough signatures to be on the state's ballot on November 3, 2015, and passed.[79]

Alongside the United States Department of Transportation, Allen and Vulcan Inc. launched the Smart City Challenge,[80] a contest inviting American cities to transform their transportation systems. Created in 2015 with USDOT's $40 million commitment as well as $10 million from Allen's Vulcan Inc., the challenge aims to create a first-of-its-kind modern city that will demonstrate how cities can improve quality of life while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.[81] The winning city will be named in June 2016.

Created in 2015, the Smart Catch program is designed for chefs by chefs to recognize and promote restaurants serving sustainable seafood. The program right now is being used by over 80 restaurants in Seattle.

As a founding member of the International SeaKeepers Society, Paul Allen hosts its proprietary SeaKeeper 1000TM oceanographic and atmospheric monitoring system on all three of his megayachts.[82]

Paul Allen also has a long history of investing in Africa. Including the following:

  • Microgrids, Paul Allen is currently funding the building of microgrids, which are small-scale power grids that can operate independently, in Kenya to help promote reusable energy and empower its businesses and residents.[83]
  • Wireless broadband, Allen was an early investor in the Mawingu Networks, a wireless and solar-powered Internet provider which aims to connect rural Africa with the world.
  • Off Grid Electric, a company focused on providing solar energy to people in emerging nations, Allen's investment is giving Tanzanians the ability to access electrical service for a very little cost.[84]


In 2014, Paul Allen pledged at least $100 million toward the fight to end the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa,[85] making him the largest private donor in the Ebola crisis. He also created a website called[86] 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 International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Médecins Sans Frontières, Partners in Health, UNICEF and World Food Program USA. On April 21, 2015, Allen brought together key leaders in the Ebola fight at the Ebola Innovation Summit in San Francisco. The summit aimed to share key learnings and reinforce the need for continued action and support to bring the number of Ebola cases down to zero.[87] As part of his ongoing commitment to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Paul Allen Foundation partnered with the United States Department of State and MRIGlobal to develop a new first of its kind medevac biocontainment units.[88] These units will be used by the U.S. State Department to help safely evacuate healthcare workers who might fall ill to infectious diseases such as Ebola.

In October 2015, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation announced it would award seven new grants totaling $11 million to prevent future widespread outbreaks of the virus.[89]

The arts[edit]

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

An active art collector, Paul Allen has gifted more than $100 million to support the arts.[95] On October 15, 2012, the Americans for the Arts awarded Allen with the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts.[96] 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,[97] surpassing its estimate of $30 million to $40 million.[98]

In 2015, Allen founded the Seattle Art Fair, a four-day event with 60+ galleries from around the world including works from the Gagosian Gallery, David Zwirner and many others. The event drew thousands and inspired other satellite fairs throughout the city.[99] Also in 2015, Allen announced that he'd be opening up Pivot Art + Culture, a gallery that will be located in the new Allen Institute for Brain Science building.

As a musician-himself and passionate fan, in August 2016, Allen announced the launch of Upstream Music + Summit Fest.[100] Fashioned after South by Southwest and Treefort Music Fest, the festival will take place in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood focusing on "emerging" local artists starting May 2017.


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.[101] In the same year, Allen donated an additional $8 million to establish the Kenneth S. Allen Library Endowment.[102] In 2012, the endowment was renamed the Kenneth S. and Faye G. Allen Library Endowment after Allen's mother (a noted bibliophile) died.[103]

In 2002, Allen donated $14 million to the University of Washington to construct the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering.[104] The building was dedicated in October 2003.[105]

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.[106]

In 2016, Allen pledged a $10 million donation over four years for the creation of the Allen Discovery Centers at Tufts University and Stanford University. The centers would fund research that would read and write the morphogenetic code. Over eight years the donation could be as much as $20 million.[107]

Personal life[edit]

Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1982. His cancer was successfully treated by several months of radiation therapy.

Allen has never married and has no children. He has been, at times, reclusive.[108][109][110]


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

Paul Allen received his first electric guitar at the age of sixteen, and was inspired to play it by listening to Jimi Hendrix.[111] In 2000, Allen played rhythm guitar on the independently-produced and eponymous album Grown Men.[112] In 2013, he had a major label release on Sony's Legacy Recordings; Everywhere at Once by Paul Allen and the Underthinkers.[113] described Everywhere at Once as "a quality release of blues-rock that's enjoyable from start to finish."[114][115]

Yachting and treasure hunting[edit]

Octopus off the Grand Cayman Islands in 2010

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.[116] As of 2013, it is 14th in the list of motor yachts by length. The yacht is equipped with two helicopters, a submarine, an ROV, a swimming pool, a music studio and a basketball court.[117]

Allen has loaned Octopus for a number of operations. Most notably, Octopus was used in the search for a missing American pilot and two officers whose plane disappeared off Palau[118] and the study of a rare fish called a coelacanth among many others.[119]

In 2012, Allen along with the Royal Navy attempted to retrieve the bell from HMS Hood, which sank in the Denmark Strait during World War II, as a national memorial.[120] In March 2015, an Allen-led research team found the Japanese battleship Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea off the coast of the Philippines.[121] Musashi and her sister ship Yamato were two of the largest and most technologically impressive battleships in naval history.

On August 7, 2015, Allen and his research team along with the Royal Navy went back again to the site of HMS Hood and recovered the bell. The bell will be restored and given to the British Royal Navy to memorialize the 1,415 men lost at sea.

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.[122]

The ship is also known for its annual celebrity-studded parties hosted at Cannes film festival,[123] where Allen and his band play for guests. These performances have included musicians such as Usher and Dave Stewart.[124]

Allen also owns Meduse and Tatoosh,which is one of the world's 100 largest yachts. In January 2016, it was reported that Tatoosh allegedly damaged coral in the Cayman Islands.[125] In April 2016, the Department of Environment (DoE) and Allen's Vulcan Inc. successfully completed a restoration plan to help speed recovery and protect the future of coral in this area.[126]

Awards and recognition[edit]

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.[127]
  • In 2007 and 2008, Allen was listed among the Time 100 Most Influential People in The World.[128]
  • He received the Vanguard Award from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association on May 20, 2008.[129]
  • 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."[130]
  • In 2009, Allen's philanthropy as the long-time owner of the Trail Blazers was recognized with an Oregon Sports Award[131]
  • 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.[132]
  • 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.[133]
  • In 2011, Paul Allen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[134]
  • On October 15, 2012, Allen received the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts at the National Arts Awards.[135]
  • On February 2, 2014, Allen received a Super Bowl ring as the Seattle Seahawks won the Vince Lombardi Trophy.[136]
  • 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.[137]
  • On December 31, 2014, Online philanthropy magazine, Inside Philanthropy, made Allen their inaugural "Philanthropist of the Year"[63] 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.
  • On July 18, 2015, Ischia Global Film and Music Festival recognized Allen with the Ischia Humanitarian Award. Event organizers honored Allen for his contributions to social issues through his philanthropic efforts.[138]
  • On August 25, 2015, Allen was named a recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy for his work to "save endangered species, fight Ebola, research the human brain, support the arts, protect the oceans, and expand educational opportunities for girls."[139]
  • On October 3, 2015, the Center for Infectious Disease Research presented Allen with the 2015 "Champion for Global Health Award" for his leadership and effort to fight Ebola.[140]

Honorary degrees[edit]


In 2011, Allen's memoir Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft, was published by Portfolio, a Penguin Group imprint. The book recounts how Allen became enamored with computers at an early age, conceived the idea for Microsoft, recruited his friend Bill Gates to join him, and launched what would become the world's most successful software company. The paperback version of Idea Man, which included a new epilogue, came out on October 30, 2012.[145][146]

See also[edit]


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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