Allen was born on January 21, 1953, in Seattle, Washington, to Kenneth Sam Allen and Edna Faye (née Gardner) Allen. He attended Lakeside School, a private school in Seattle where he befriended Bill Gates, with whom he shared an enthusiasm for computers, and they used Lakeside's Teletype terminal to develop their programming skills on several time-sharing computer systems. They also used the laboratory of the Computer Science Department of the University of Washington, doing personal research and computer programming; they were banned from the laboratory in 1971 for abuse of their privileges there.
Gates and Allen joined with Ric Weiland and Gates' childhood best friend and first collaborator, Kent Evans, to form the Lakeside Programming Club and find bugs in Computer Center Corporation's software, in exchange for extra computer time. In 1972, after Evans' sudden death due to a mountain climbing accident, Gates turned to Allen for help finishing an automated system of Lakeside's entire class scheduling procedure. They then formed Traf-O-Data to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. According to Allen, he and Gates would go "dumpster diving" in their teenage years for computer program code.
Allen and Gates formed Microsoft in 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and began marketing a BASIC programming language interpreter, with their first employee being high school friend and collaborator Ric Weiland. Allen came up with the name of "Micro-Soft", a combination of "microcomputer" and "software".
Microsoft committed to delivering a disk operating system (DOS) to IBM for the original IBM PC in 1980, although they had not yet developed one, and Allen spearheaded a deal for Microsoft to purchase QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) written by Tim Paterson who was employed at Seattle Computer Products. As a result of this transaction, Microsoft secured a contract to supply the DOS that ran on IBM's PC line, which opened the door to Allen's and Gates' wealth and success.
The relationship between Allen and Gates became strained as they argued even over small things. Allen effectively left Microsoft in 1982 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, though he remained on the board of directors as vice chairman. Gates reportedly asked Allen to give him some of his shares to compensate for the higher amount of work that Gates was doing. According to Allen, Gates said that he "did almost everything on BASIC" and the company should be split 60-40 in his favor. Allen agreed to this arrangement, which Gates later renegotiated to 64-36. In 1983, Gates tried to buy Allen out at $5 per share, but Allen refused and left the company with his shares intact; this made him a billionaire when Microsoft went public. Gates later repaired his relationship with Allen, and the two men donated $2.2 million to their childhood school Lakeside in 1986. They remained friends for the rest of Allen's life.
Allen resigned from his position on the Microsoft board of directors on November 9, 2000, but he remained as a senior strategy advisor to the company's executives. In January 2014, he still held 100 million shares of Microsoft.
Businesses and investments
Financial and technology
Vulcan Capital is an investment arm of Allen's Seattle-based Vulcan Inc., which has managed 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.
Ticketmaster: In November 1993, Allen invested more than $325 million to acquire 80% of Ticketmaster. In 1997, Home Shopping Network acquired 47.5% of Allen's stock in exchange for $209 million worth of their own stock.
Charter Communications: In 1998, Allen bought a controlling interest in Charter Communications. Charter filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 2009, with Allen's loss estimated at $7 billion. Allen kept a small stake after Charter emerged from reorganization, worth $535 million in 2012. The company's 2016 purchase and subsequent merger of Time Warner Cable with Charter's subsidiary, Spectrum, made Charter Communications the second-largest cable company in the U.S.
On December 13, 2011, Allen announced the creation of Stratolaunch Systems, based at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The 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. Stratolaunch, which is partnering with Orbital ATK 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. On April 13, 2015, Vulcan Aerospace was announced. It is the company within Allen's Vulcan Inc. that plans and executes projects to shift how the world conceptualizes space travel through cost reduction and on-demand access.
On April 13, 2019, the Stratolaunch aircraft made its maiden flight, reaching 15,000 ft (4,600 m) and 165 kn (305 km/h) in a 2 h 29 min flight. Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd offered this comment: "We dedicate this day to the man who inspired us all to strive for ways to empower the world's problem-solvers, Paul Allen. Without a doubt, he would have been exceptionally proud to see his aircraft take flight".
As of the end of May 2019, Stratolaunch Systems Corporation is closing operations.
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. Vulcan has developed 6.3 million square feet (590,000 m2) of new residential, office, retail and biotechnology research space, and has a total development capacity of 10,000,000 sq ft (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. 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-foot (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", Allen said of the South Lake Union development.
Sports and event centers: Allen funded the development of Portland's Moda Center, which he purchased in 2007. He also contributed $130 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 2004 as a professional and social hub for people working in the creative arts. A second location in Los Angeles is under construction.
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 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. The Allen-owned Trail Blazers reached the playoffs 19 times including the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. According to Forbes, the Blazers were valued at $940 million in 2015 and ranked No. 12 out of 30 NBA teams.
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 which was also controlled by Allen. 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.
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 premier, and over 4 million people have engaged with Girl Rising through websites and social media. Through the associated 10×10 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 on CNN in November 2013. A variety of college and private screenings as well as panel discussions have been hosted throughout the country.
Allen gave more than $2 billion towards the advancement of science, technology, education, wildlife conservation, the arts, and community services in his lifetime. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which he founded with his sister Jody Allen, 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, in 2010, Allen became a signatory of The Giving Pledge, promising to give at least half of his fortune to philanthropic causes. Allen received commendations for his philanthropic commitments including the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy and Inside Philanthropy's "Philanthropist of the Year".
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, Allen 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. 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.
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. Like the institutes before it, all data generated and tools developed will be made publicly available online.
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 to accelerate the pace of discovery. 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".
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.
Allen provided more than $7 million to fund a census of elephant populations in Africa, the largest such endeavour since the 1970s. The Great Elephant Census team flew over 20 countries to survey African savannah elephants. The survey results were published in 2015 and showed rapid rates of decline which were accelerating.
He 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 went towards the creation of FishBase, an online database about adult finfish. Allen funded the Global FinPrint initiative, launched in July 2015, 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.
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.
Alongside the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), Allen and Vulcan Inc. launched the Smart City Challenge, a contest inviting American cities to transform their transportation systems. Created in 2015 with the 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. The winning city was Columbus, Ohio.
As a founding member of the International SeaKeepers Society, Allen hosted its proprietary SeaKeeper 1000TM oceanographic and atmospheric monitoring system on all three of his megayachts.
Allen funded 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. He was an early investor in the Mawingu Networks, a wireless and solar-powered Internet provider which aims to connect rural Africa with the world, and Off Grid Electric, a company focused on providing solar energy to people in emerging nations.
In 2014, Allen pledged at least $100 million toward the fight to end the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, making him the largest private donor in the Ebola crisis. He also created a website called TackleEbola.org as a way to spread awareness and serve as a vehicle for donors to fund projects in need. The site additionally highlighted organizations working to stop Ebola that Allen supported 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, which was achieved in January 2016.
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.
In 2012, along with his research team and the Royal Navy, Allen attempted to retrieve the bell from HMS Hood, which sank in the Denmark Strait during World War II, but the attempt failed due to poor weather. On August 7, 2015, they tried again and recovered the bell in very good condition. It was restored and put on display in May 2016 in the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, in remembrance of the 1,415 crewmen lost.
An active art collector, Allen gifted more than $100 million to support the arts. On October 15, 2012, the Americans for the Arts gave Allen the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts. Allen 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 which at the time was the record price to have been paid for a work by the abstract artist.
In 2015, Allen founded the Seattle Art Fair, a four-day event with 60-plus galleries from around the world including the participation of the Gagosian Gallery, David Zwirner, and many others. The event drew thousands and inspired other satellite fairs throughout the city.
In 1989, 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) died.
In 2002, Allen donated $14 million to the University of Washington to construct the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering. The building was dedicated in October 2003.
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 was the largest private donation in the university's history.
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.
In 2017, Allen donated $40 million (with an additional $10 million added by Microsoft) to reorganize the University of Washington's Computer Science and Engineering department into the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering.
While Allen expressed interest in romantic love and one day having a family, he never married and had no children. His marriage plans with his first girlfriend were cancelled as he felt he "was not ready to marry at 23". He was sometimes considered reclusive.
Paul Allen and the Underthinkers perform at the Allen Institute for Brain Science's 10th-anniversary gala
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 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".
On February 7, 2018, an interview with Quincy Jones was released by the magazine New York on their Vulture website. In this interview, Jones said that he had extreme respect for Eric Clapton, his band Cream, and Allen. Referencing Allen's Hendrix-like play, the article mentioned a jam session on a yacht with Stevie Wonder.
Allen's 414-foot (126 m) yacht, Octopus, was launched in 2003. As of 2019, it was 20th on 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.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. The ship is also known for its annual celebrity-studded parties which Allen hosted at the Cannes film festival, where Allen and his band played for guests. These performances included musicians such as Usher and David A. Stewart.Octopus was also used in the search for a missing American pilot and two officers whose plane disappeared off Palau and the study of a rare fish called a coelacanth among many others.
Allen also owned 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. 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.
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. It also explores Allen's business and creative ventures following his 1983 departure from Microsoft, including his involvement in SpaceShipOne, his purchase of the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks, his passion for music, and his ongoing support for scientific research. The book made The New York Times Best Seller list and the paperback version, which included a new epilogue, came out on October 30, 2012.
Several Seattle-area landmarks, including the Space Needle, Columbia Center and Lumen Field, as well as various Microsoft offices throughout the United States, were illuminated in blue on November 3, 2018, as a tribute to Allen. He was also honored by his early business partner and lifelong friend Bill Gates, who said in a statement:
Paul loved life and those around him, and we all cherished him in return. He deserved much more time, but his contributions to the world of technology and philanthropy will live on for generations to come. I will miss him tremendously.
Awards and recognition
Allen received numerous awards in many different areas, including sports, philanthropy, and the arts:
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".
On October 22, 2014, Allen received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Seattle Business magazine for his impact in and around the greater Puget Sound region.
On December 31, 2014, online philanthropy magazine Inside Philanthropy made Allen their inaugural "Philanthropist of the Year" 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.
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".
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.
^"The World's Largest Plane's First Flight From Every Angle". Popular Mechanics. April 15, 2019. Retrieved 2019. The tests come after a long series of taxi tests that always stopped just short of achieving actual flight, but now that threshold has been crossed, and the engineers seem pleased with the results.
^"Stratolaunch, the World's Biggest Airplane, Takes Flight". Condé Nast Ars Technica. April 14, 2019. Retrieved 2019. "Even though he wasn't there today, as the plane lifted gracefully from the runway, I did whisper a 'thank you' to Paul for allowing me to be a part of this remarkable achievement,