Paul Allen, who cofounded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates before becoming a billionaire philanthropist, technology investor and owner of several professional sports teams, has died. He was 65.
He died on Monday in Seattle, according to his company Vulcan Inc. Earlier this month Allen announced that the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that he was treated for in 2009 had returned and he planned to fight it aggressively.
Gates said he was heartbroken about the loss of one of his “oldest and dearest friends.”
“Personal computing would not have existed without him,” Gates said in a statement, adding that Allen’s “second act” as a philanthropist was “focused on improving people’s lives and strengthening communities in Seattle and around the world.”
Allen and Gates met while attending a private school in north Seattle. The two friends would later drop out of college to pursue the future they envisioned: A world with a computer in every home.
Gates so strongly believed in their dream that he left Harvard University in his junior year to devote himself full-time to his and Allen’s startup, which Allen dubbed Micro-Soft, short for microprocessors and software. Allen spent two years at Washington State University before dropping out as well.
They founded the company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their first product was a computer language for the Altair hobby-kit personal computer, giving hobbyists a basic way to program and operate the machine.
After Gates and Allen found some success selling their programming language, MS-Basic, the Seattle natives moved their business in 1979 to Bellevue, Washington, not far from its eventual home in Redmond.
Allen departed the company just eight years after its founding in 1975. He served as Microsoft’s executive vice president of research and new product development until 1983, when he resigned after being diagnosed with cancer.
“To be 30 years old and have that kind of shock — to face your mortality — really makes you feel like you should do some of the things that you haven’t done yet,” Allen said in a 2000 book, Inside Out: Microsoft in Our Own Words.
Two weeks ago, Allen said that a different cancer — non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which he was treated for in 2009 — had returned.
Over the course of several decades, Allen gave more than US$2 billion to a wide range of interests, including ocean health, homelessness and scientific research.
With his sister, Jody Allen, in 1986, he founded Vulcan, the investment firm that oversees his business and philanthropic efforts.
“Millions of people were touched by his generosity, his persistence in pursuit of a better world, and his drive to accomplish as much as he could with the time and resources at his disposal,” Vulcan chief executive Bill Hilf said in a statement.
Allen was on the list of the US’ wealthiest people who pledged to give away the bulk of their fortunes to charity.
“Those fortunate to achieve great wealth should put it to work for the good of humanity,” he said.
His influence is firmly imprinted on the cultural landscape of Seattle and the Pacific northwest, from the bright metallic Museum of Pop Culture designed by architect Frank Gehry to the computer science center at the University of Washington that bears his name.
He founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the aerospace firm Stratolaunch, which has built a colossal airplane designed to launch satellites into orbit. He has also backed research into nuclear-fusion power.
“My brother was a remarkable individual on every level,” Jody Allen said in a statement. “Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern.”
Allen was also an avid sports fan and used some of his fortune to buy several professional teams. In 1988 at 35, he bought the Portland Trail Blazers; he was a part owner of the Seattle Sounders FC, a major league soccer team, and bought the Seattle Seahawks.
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