Paul Allen, who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates, died Monday afternoon after a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his family confirmed to Business Insider. He was 65.
Allen, a tech billionaire, was a philanthropist and the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. He operated Vulcan Ventures, a venture-capital fund.
Allen was first diagnosed with the cancer in 2009, and disclosed earlier this month that it had returned after a period of remission. At the time, Allen said that he planned on staying involved with his various business ventures. It was the third time that Allen has been diagnosed with some form of lymphoma. He survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma after being diagnosed in the 1980s.
Allen, a Seattle native, and Gates were childhood friends. In 1972, while in high school, the pair launched Traf-o-Data, a software company that tracked and analyzed traffic patterns. When Gates went to Harvard, Allen stayed local and went to Washington State University, though he ended up dropping out.
It was Allen who suggested that the two work together to make a BASIC language interpreter for the then cutting-edge Altair 8800 microcomputer, which became Microsoft’s first product. The name “Micro-Soft” for their joint venture was Allen’s idea.
Further, Allen was responsible for the key deal that made Microsoft a major player in the PC revolution: When Gates promised IBM in 1980 that Microsoft would supply an operating system for its flagship PC, it was Allen who went and purchased the rights to the “Quick and Dirty Operating System,” or QDOS, from developer Tim Paterson. Microsoft rebranded QDOS as MS-DOS, or the Microsoft Disk Operating System, and supplied it to IBM per the deal.
In 1983, Allen stepped aside from day-to-day operations at Microsoft, not long after beginning treatment for his first diagnosis with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He remained on the company’s board of directors until 2000.
Allen would later write that his departure was marked by a period of friction with Gates, where they disagreed over the direction of the company. Allen said that Gates tried to buy out his shares in the company, but that he ultimately decided to hang on to his stake — which made Allen his fortune when Microsoft went public in 1986.
Allen was also known as a musician. As a guitarist, he fronted a band called The Underthinkers, and wrote or cowrote every song on their 2013 album. He also founded Seattle’s Experience Music Project, or EMP, which was originally a museum devoted to his hero Jimi Hendrix. Allen also started the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, in the same building as the EMP. The two have since been combined into the Museum of Pop Culture.
Allen’s net worth was pegged at $20 billion.
Lymphomas are cancers that attack the lymphatic system. Non-Hodgkin’s is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Jody Allen, Paul’s sister, issued the following statement:
My brother was a remarkable individual on every level. While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much-loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend. Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern. For all the demands on his schedule, there was always time for family and friends. At this time of loss and grief for us – and so many others – we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day.
Paul Allen’s contributions to our company, our industry and to our community are indispensable. As co-founder of Microsoft, in his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world. I have learned so much from him – his inquisitiveness, curiosity and push for high standards is something that will continue to inspire me and all of us at Microsoft. Our hearts are with Paul’s family and loved ones. Rest in peace.
Bill Hilf, the CEO of Allen’s holding company Vulcan Inc., said:
All of us who had the honor of working with Paul feel inexpressible loss today. He possessed a remarkable intellect and a passion to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems, with the conviction that creative thinking and new approaches could make profound and lasting impact.
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.
Paul’s life was diverse and lived with gusto. It reflected his myriad interests in technology, music and the arts, biosciences and artificial intelligence, conservation and in the power of shared experience – in a stadium or a neighborhood – to transform individual lives and whole communities.
Paul loved Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The impact of Paul’s efforts can be seen here at every turn. But the true impact of his vision and generosity is evident around the globe.
Paul thoughtfully addressed how the many institutions he founded and supported would continue after he was no longer able to lead them. This isn’t the time to deal in those specifics as we focus on Paul’s family. We will continue to work on furthering Paul’s mission and the projects he entrusted to us. There are no changes imminent for Vulcan, the teams, the research institutes or museums.
Today we mourn our boss, mentor and friend whose 65 years were too short – and acknowledge the honor it has been to work alongside someone whose life transformed the world.”