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Microsoft Editorial

Paul Allen the 'Accidental Zillionaire' 164

An anonymous reader writes "The Sydney Morning Herald has an interesting story about Paul Allen, "the accidental zillionaire". Allen is the owner of the world's biggest private yacht and a huge landowner in the Seattle area in addition to his traditional accolades of helping to found Microsoft along with several other companies and foundations."
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Paul Allen the 'Accidental Zillionaire'

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  • by ytr ( 680908 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:41AM (#14339056)
    millionaire - so common, the hoi polloi
    billionaire - fewer, somewhat dodgy
    trillionaire - hmmm tricky, size of the US deficit .....
    zillionaire - more money than that?
    • by ciroknight ( 601098 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:46AM (#14339065)
      zillionaire - more money than what?


      Anyways, I would hardly call it "accidential". It wasn't any accident that Microsoft got to license their OS to the IBM (and compatible) machines, it was cold and calculated. While they might not have known they'd end up being some of the richest people to have ever lived, they had to have known that they were never going to have to worry about money again in their lives.
      • by Trurl's Machine ( 651488 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:05AM (#14339095) Journal
        Anyways, I would hardly call it "accidential". It wasn't any accident that Microsoft got to license their OS to the IBM (and compatible) machines, it was cold and calculated. While they might not have known they'd end up being some of the richest people to have ever lived, they had to have known that they were never going to have to worry about money again in their lives.

        Since early 1980's? Probably they knew that. But in early 1970's, Allen and Gates were just a couple of nerdy students, sharing a belief that the future is in household computers. While in that age everyone else shared a belief that a "computer" is meant to be maintained and operated only by specially trained staff wearing laboratory overalls. Yes, their deal with IBM was no accident but in order to get that deal, they had to establish their position in the 8-bit personal computing world - writing BASIC for Altair and Apple, and lot of stuff for CP/M (originally that was the IBM's system of choice for their first PC). That was largely an accident - lots of companies active in the 8-bit market (such as Altair or Digital Research, makers of the CP/M) simply didn't make it in 1980's.
        • by ceeam ( 39911 )
          Since early 1980's? Probably they knew that. But in early 1970's, Allen and Gates were just a couple of nerdy students, sharing a belief that the future is in household computers.

          And I guess having very rich parents with "connections" helps too.
          • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday December 26, 2005 @08:06AM (#14339295) Homepage Journal
            Gates' father's influence on Microsoft can't be ignored. He taught his son a healthy respect for the law. That is, always stay within the letter of the law but feel free to bend it as much as possible and if you do feel the desire to break it, try to find a good patsy to hide behind. I can remember having a long argument with a coworker about Microsoft not paying any taxes. His opinion was that Microsoft is following the letter of the law and therefore is doing nothing wrong. My opinion was that Microsoft is just sponging off the community by refusing to pay any taxes, even if it means paying more for tax lawyers than they would have to pay in taxes if they weren't so set on not paying taxes. And the fact that they force their employees to accept stock which has absolutely no value so they can avoid taxes, implicating every one of them in their immoral actions is most deplorable.
          • There are several kids with rich parents and connections who amount to nothing. Credit them for being enterprising enough to have used it well. In their position, if you had such connections, would not have?
            • Just because some rich, well connected kids amount to nothing doesn't mean it's worthless. A lot more kids without rich, well connected parents amount to nothing. And some talented, hard working kids without rwcp wind up in the burbs with lazy rich kids. Many and connections aint everything, but it helps.
        • writing BASIC for Altair and Apple, and lot of stuff for CP/M (originally that was the IBM's system of choice for their first PC)
          You mean extorting, and blackmailing...tactics that Gates was a master at even back then.
        • by sheridan3003 ( 165213 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @09:54AM (#14339521) Homepage Journal
          Chance favors the prepared mind.

          They were lucky, but they also had some idea of what they were getting into. Taking advantage of an opportunity means recognizing that you have an opportunity to take advantage of.
      • by hendersj ( 720767 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:06AM (#14339099)
        Well, I don't know that I'd call it accidental, but there was a rather significant luck factor involved; if Gary Kildall had pursued the opportunity (and there are several stories about why he didn't - ranging from opting to fly his plane instead of meet with IBM to refusing to sign an NDA; according to Gordon Eubanks, Kildall just wasn't interested in porting CP/M to the 8088 processor). If Seattle Computer Products hadn't sold QDOS to MicroSoft, things also would have been pretty different.
        • by tomcres ( 925786 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @08:21AM (#14339327)
          Really, it doesn't matter whether IBM picked up on DOS, CP/M, or something else. IBM was a business machine, almost never found in homes. Why would you use it at home? There were cheaper computers better suited for home applications available from Commodore, Atari, and Apple (OK, Apple wasn't all that cheap, but still cheaper than IBM at the time).

          What really made the PC ubiquitously popular was Compaq's reverse-engineering of the IBM BIOS. This meant that you no longer had to pay top dollar for something that was truly IBM compatible. This, coupled with the adoption of the ISA bus by all of the PC manufacturers, is what made the PC the king of the hill. All of a sudden, Intel (and others) had a real incentive to make faster, more capable CPUs (because IBM wasn't the only game in town anymore for the x86), and because of standards like the ISA bus, card manufacturers had a broader audience to develop things like SoundBlaster. It was because of this opening up of the hardware to virtually anyone that the PC became popular. It had absolutely nothing to do with Microsoft or DOS. Remember, also, that Microsoft also produced the BASIC in every single Commodore 8-bit computer from the PET through the 128, and so they made money on the millions of those sold, in addition to MS-DOS/PC-DOS.

          • Actually, IBM published the BIOS openly. You could purchase it directly from IBM for $60. It arrived in a nice 3 ring binder. It was very well documented and the actual assembler source code was included. I now deeply regret having disposed of my copy - probably 20 years ago...
          • It probably would've made a difference to Paul Allen and his zillions of dollars, which was the topic of discussion to which I was referring.

            If Kildall had taken to producing an OS for the PC, MicroSoft may never have had the chance to produce BASIC for it, and those who made their millions/billions may not have been quite so successful.
            • No, Microsoft was the premier provider of BASIC for a variety of platforms, including BASIC for CP/M (and Apple II series and many others.) If they weren't already important in languages, they would have never got a chance to produce an OS. Kildall did produce CP/M for the original PC, and it was available as soon as the PC was introduced. IBM just chose to offer it as an expensive extra instead of the free, default, pre-installed OS.
          • "What really made the PC ubiquitously popular was Compaq's reverse-engineering of the IBM BIOS."

            Um, wasn't it *Phoenix Technologies* that reverse engineered the IBM BIOS, i.e. produced an IBM-compatible BIOS so that other manufacturers could make IBM clones?
            • In 1983, with the next generation of PC from IBM, the XT, the BIOS received a real boost in its firmware (nonvolatile software). It could now recognize the drives and video cards, but it could still not control them. Compaq and other OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) managed to "reverse engineer" IBM's little "black box" and created proprietary devices. This, in turn, led to compatibility problems with things like memory and peripherals. You had to go back to the OEM to upgrade. Just a year later, in
      • While they might not have known they'd end up being some of the richest people to have ever lived, they had to have known that they were never going to have to worry about money again in their lives.

        Hardly. IBM, when they came out with the original PC, estimated that total sales for the PC would be in the neighbourhood of about 250,000 for the life of the product. Back then, IBM worked on 5-10 year product cycles.

        If anything, at their most optimistic, they probably hoped it would settle their student
      • Anyways, I would hardly call it "accidential".

        Heh. That reminds me of that Louie Anderson joke.

        "People would say, 'Does he know he's that fat?'
        Like I woke up one morning and said, 'oh noooooooooooooooooooooo...'"
    • by alicenextdoor ( 910558 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:02AM (#14339090)
      Marital status: Single
      Worth: $US21 billion, seventh richest person in the world, says Forbes Magazine, 2005

      A clear case of too many LAN parties...

      • Well, he's smart. If he was married, he'd be off the top twenty. If he had kids, he'd be off the top 50. Don't you know how expensive it ia to buy an Xbox 360 off eBay nowadays? And you'd know he'd have to get a bunch for his nieces and nephews.
    • Exactly how many billions make a zillion?
      • It depends if you're talking American zillions or real zillions. Much like with billionaires, Americans like to have a fairly low bar (comparitively speaking of course) for zillionaires.
    • I understand President Bush got very upset upon learning that three Brazilian soldiers had died in Iraq.

      "How did we go from a couple of thousand to three brazillion?!?"

  • I bet he smashes the guitar... no? It's early.
  • FYI (Score:3, Informative)

    by cloudkj ( 685320 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:53AM (#14339073)
    I believe Paul Allen also owns the Seattle Seahawks football franchise, which is something the article fails to mention. The Seahawks are doing pretty well this season, btw.
    • Re:FYI (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:38AM (#14339158)
      Northwest franchises and real estate: Seattle Seahawks NFL football (First and Goal, Stadium construction company, includes all proceeds from new stadium, exhibition hall, and related revenues); Portland Trailblazers NBA basketball (Rose Garden Arena); South Lake Union Seaport Park redevelopment; Formal Naval Reserve Base (a 12 acre, $35 million park); Lake Union (223,000 square feet total ownership, $400 million total development costs so far); Quendall Landing in Renton (68 acres mixed business and residential real estate, $500 million to develop so far); Experience Music Project; Cinerama; Union Station & surrounding real estate; and leases extensive space at Smith Tower. International real estate: The Hospital--an Art space in Camden, England. Radio: KEXP (Seattle, non-commercial, underwriting agreement with Univ. of Washington); OneOnOne Sports (radio syndication network, also owns three commercial radio stations in Chicago); and two commercial radio stations in Portland. Charity and other organizations: Clear Blue sky--Production company for Indy films; The Paul G. Allen Foundation for Medical Research; The Allen Foundation for the Arts; The Allen Foundation for Music; The Paul G. Allen Forest Protection Foundation; and The Paul G. Allen Virtual Education Foundation. Cash: $28 billion in assets; $1.04 billion in public funds. Investments through Vulcan Ventures (Full or partial ownership): 800.com; Allegiance Telecom Inc.; Aluentive; Apex Learning; ARI Network Services; BOPS; Caspian Networks; Charter Communications; click2learn.com; Colorado Microdisplay; Command Audio; Cyber Source; Dick's Clothing and Sporting Goods; Diego Broadband Inc.; Dreamworks SKG; Drugstore.com; e-Media, LLC; e-Steel; Edison Schools; Encryptix, Inc.; eStyle, Inc.; Fantasma Networks; Fatbrain.com; Genomix; Go2Net Inc.; HarvardNet Inc.; Health Answers Inc.; High Speed Access Corp.; IFILM; imandi.com; Installations Inc.; inviso; iVast; IVT; Kestrel Solutions; LiquidAudio Inc. Magis Networks; Metricom Inc.; myplay Inc.; NetSchools Corp.; Northpoint Communications; oncology.com; OnePage Inc.; Oxygen Media; Paraform Inc.; RCN Corportation; Replay TV Inc.; RioPort Inc.; Rocket Network Inc. Sandbox.com; ScienceMedia; Sharewave Inc.; Stamps.com; Structural GenomiX; TechTV; Terra Stor; The Sporting News; Transmeta; Triscend Corporation; Tularik Inc.; USA Networks Inc.; Versata Inc.; Vulcan Northwest Inc.; Vulcan Ventures Inc.; Wavetrace; Wink Comm; and Xcyte Therapies.
    • Re:FYI (Score:2, Funny)

      It's an Australian paper, so that's not a football franchise, it's a gridiron team.

      And we don't care.

    • He owns the Portland Trailblazers, too (an NBA team). But they've not been any good since 2000.
  • He did well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:55AM (#14339080)
    Investing in the right company means he did something right.. That also means that he was not a rich man by accident.

    Still I wonder why so many geeks are online on x-mas. Oh wait, I am too.

    • What, is it Christmas already?!
      I was just yesterday surfing!

      Gosh, I guess installing linux really takes some time...;-)
      • Re:He did well (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You expect to get a score 5 for funny now, dont you?... wish your comments where hot like me...
  • i think that's when he call it quit. he and bill was at the right place at the right time. it didn't hurt when bill's mom was able to arrange a meeting for him with IBM. MS-DOS, baby!
  • His hompage (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:06AM (#14339100)
    http://www.paulallen.com/ [paulallen.com]

    It runs on IIS. What are the odds?

  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by AgentX24 ( 797752 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:12AM (#14339113)
    Does that make the rest of us accidental nillionaires?
  • With the removal of the hyphen and thanks to some clever software, astute deals, a once-in-a-lifetime deal with IBM and a touch of ruthlessness, world domination followed.


    In the book Hard Drive, authors James Wallace and Jim Erickson say that Allen was a much easier person to get along with. While Gates was often impossible, prone to fits of temper and an uncompromising workaholic, Allen had a life outside of work. He was interested in technology, rock music and science fiction. "Paul tended
    • by Anonymous Coward

      last of all: "Allen has been selling his Microsoft shares since he left the company, but still owns more than $3 billion worth.", sounds like somebody started to loose faith in the company there...

      Not really. What would you do? A zillion in unrealised P&L as stock and a desire for big boats. I'd sell too - and he's described as having interests outside work - so why not? And I think there's proably a few people with a lot of faith in their organisation but still hold less than $3 billion in stock. Wh

    • Or he's just a cautious investor and wanted to diversify? Don't keep all your eggs in the same basket, and all that.
    • last of all: "Allen has been selling his Microsoft shares since he left the company, but still owns more than $3 billion worth.", sounds like somebody started to loose faith in the company there...

      I think it's more likely he began to want (or perhaps needed) to liquidate his funds. He doesn't actually have a job now, right? If not, then his expensive lifestyle (from his homes and boats to his football teams and charity work) is a drain on his money. I'm sure he's planned it so he'll never have to worry abou
    • last of all: "Allen has been selling his Microsoft shares since he left the company, but still owns more than $3 billion worth.", sounds like somebody started to loose faith in the company there...

      Well, if he wants to own anything other than a piece of microsoft, he'll have to sell those shares. Living in a shack with $3 billion in paper wealth is silly. Of course he wants to turn those shares into other things.

  • Isn't Larry's yacht the new largest?
    • Re:largest yacht (Score:5, Informative)

      by blosphere ( 614452 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:24AM (#14339136) Homepage

      No, The largest yatch is owned by the Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, the name is 'Platinum'

      Allen's boat was designed by the same company btw.

      I do think he has the biggest yatch in US

      Linky. http://www.bostonboating.com/platinum.htm [bostonboating.com]
      • Re:largest yacht (Score:3, Informative)

        Here's a link [agent4stars.com] to a page with lots and lots of pictures of Paul's boat, "Octopus" (outside pics only). If you poke around the site a bit you can also find a page of pictures for the "Platinum" as well as several other ships that are larger than Octopus.

        Some other interesting things that apparently came with it:
        • Tender - 63ft "Man of War"
        • Submarine - Nomad 1000 (world's first luxury submarine)
        • Helicopter - Sirkorsky S76
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:19AM (#14339127)
    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Nader/CutCorpWel fare_Nader.html [thirdworldtraveler.com]

    Hijacking local democracy

    Perhaps nothing illustrates the ruthlessness and shameless power plays of the corporate welfare kings than their extortionate demands for state and local subsidies on threat of picking up and moving elsewhere.

    And no case illustrates the hijacking of democratic procedures more clearly than billionaire Paul Allen's buying of an especially-made-for-Allen Washington state referendum to approve $300 million in public subsidies to build a football stadium for his Seattle Seahawks. Mega-billionaire Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates and one of the richest men in the world, bought the referendum both literally and figuratively.

    In a stunningly brazen maneuver, he paid the state of Washington for the costs of running the special referendum election in June 1997. Although later challenged as a violation of the state's constitution, the state Supreme Court upheld the private financing of the election. But even the Supreme Court majority which upheld the constitutionality of the election purchase blanched at its political ramifications. "Troubling questions may arise, such as whether any wealthy entity could persuade the legislature to place a measure on the ballot provided the costs of the election were paid," wrote Justice Barbara Madsen for the majority.

    Having paid for the issue to get on the ballot, Allen then waged a $6.3 million campaign-the most expensive in Washington state history-to convince voters to support the $300 million public subsidy to the stadium. He devoted $2.3 million to radio and TV ads. In total, Allen outspent opponents of the referendum by a 42-to-1 margin.

    Allen's investment proved just enough: Washington voters, initially opposed by overwhelming numbers to the idea of public funding for the stadium, approved the referendum with a 51 percent majority.

  • by Chaffar ( 670874 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @06:31AM (#14339146)
    Born: January 21, 1953, Seattle, Washington
    1975: Co-founds Microsoft Corporation with Bill Gates
    1983: Develops Hodgkin's disease
    So this man is responsible for the development of Microsoft AND Hodgkin's disease? The man's the devil himself :0!
  • Correction (Score:3, Informative)

    by word munger ( 550251 ) <dsmunger@@@gmail...com> on Monday December 26, 2005 @07:56AM (#14339282) Homepage Journal
    Allen and Gates went to the Lakeside School, not the nonexistent Lakewood School. Whatever.
  • by oztiks ( 921504 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @08:22AM (#14339330)

    1983: Develops Hodgkin's disease and leaves Microsoft. Makes full recovery

    Ya think that when writing an artical where a portion of the audience are going to be geeks and/or programmers they wouldnt use words like "develops" to describe what happened to him, rather "contracting" a virus would sound more appropriate. It makes him sound like he wrote the Hodgkin's virus in his multi-zillion dallor basement.

    Perhaps, Insted of "Makes full recovery" it should read "Was able to restore Paul Allen from tape backup"

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @10:42AM (#14339660) Journal
    accidental. He actually wrote a major portion of the initial code, whereas BG wrote very little of it.
    IIRC, It was IBM that approached them (the movie was incorrect).
    In addition, it took several employees to talk BG into not moving to Unix from Dos (DOS numbers were awesome, where MS xenix was going nowhere).
    Paul went on to develop a number of companies and technologies, but BG stayed with just one.
    In addition, BG's thing has been to work with a monopoly that simply steals from others, while Paul develop new techs.

    Offhand, I would call BG more the accidental, and Paul the brilliant one.
    • it took several employees to talk BG into not moving to Unix from Dos (DOS numbers were awesome, where MS xenix was going nowhere).

      From the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]...

      In the late 1980s, Xenix was, according to Samuel J. Leffler et al. in The Design and Implementation of the 4.3BSD UNIX Operating System (1989), "probably the most widespread version of the UNIX operating system, according to the number of machines on which it runs" (p. 7).

      Ironically, most Windows' rivals now are Unix-like. Brings a "what if?" t

      • That would be SCO xenix. MS actually had xenix first and sold it to SCO.

        BG was intent on moving ppl off of dos onto xenix. In fact, the reason why DOS aquired real directories and corresponding commands (cd, mkdir/md, etc) was to make the transition to xenix easy, which had also aquired a number of dos commands.

        Even though I am *nix fan, I would not have it any other way. Back then IBM was the bad guy and was stifling innovation. MS does now, so control needs to be taken from them. But at one time, the MS
    • I believe Paul Allen was the one to convince Bill Gates to drop out of college and start a company. Bill Gates is richer because, Allen got sick and had to give up stock before the big monopoly years.
    • accidental.

      I presume, or at least suspect, this word comes from the title of the Robert Cringley book on those who started the personal computer revolution, "Accidental Empires."
  • Arbeit ist Spiel! Time for a Tofutti break! (If you don't know what this is, just igFNORDnore it.)
  • by wk633 ( 442820 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @12:34PM (#14340013)
    A few years ago Paul Allen parked his ship at Santa Barbara for a week. He spent his evenings flying around over the city in his helicopter. Fucking annoying noise. If he's got that much money, why doesn't he buy Blue Thunder?
  • that Paul Allen and SpaceshipOne might be just whats needed for privatized space flights to (no pun intended) take off. Why does everyone forget the good stuff like this which Allen's done?

    And the good thing is, he funds ventures after deciding "if its something that he would love". I call that a rather smart way of judging what (not) to fund. Granted, that this may at times bump up pet projects when compared to something with a larger impact - but this is needed too! After all, we do have the 2 richest
  • by Aaron England ( 681534 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @03:25PM (#14340944)
    Is Paul Allen to Seattle as Thomas and Bruce Wayne were to Gotham City?


    Has a huge house, more of a compound really.
    Isn't married.
    He has lots of fast cars.
    One of the biggest philanthropists in America.
    Funded medical research, mapping the human brain at the cellular level.
    [Funded] the Experience Music project and the Science Fiction museum.
    Art collection...rumoured to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
    Donated $20 million to develop a park which would have stretched from the downtown area to Lake Union.
    Converting a nondescript belt of warehouses and commercial buildings into a biotech hub, while redeveloping environmentally friendly housing, and a waterfront park.

    Now that we have evidence that he plays the role of philantropist-playboy by day can anyone pony-up the evidence that he lives the double life and is a crime-fighter by night?
  • Altruism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RgrRbbt ( 850433 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @05:29PM (#14341479)

    I seem to remember reading that Bill Gates only started his philanthopic spree when his mom confronted him about his vast wealth and insisted he donate much of it to charitable causes. (I hope I'm not getting my facts wrong here.)

    Paul Allen has given a lot of money to medical research, but being ill seems to have been the impetus for that.

    Both men also have their name slapped on many of the non-profit projects to which they donate.

    I'm not saying this makes their contributations any less important. But it does seem to make the spirit of the donations a little less impressive, since the men likely would not have been so generous without such "external" pressures.

    Does anyone agree or am I being too idealistic to hope for true altruism?

  • by wk633 ( 442820 ) on Monday December 26, 2005 @10:06PM (#14342562)
    Let's keep the evil in perspective:

    From: http://www.walmartmovie.com/facts.php/ [walmartmovie.com]

    A WAL-MART Worker may donate money from their paycheck to the CRITICAL NEED FUND, a program to aid other employees in times of crisis, like a fire or tornado.
    In 2004, WAL-MART Employees gave OVER $5 MILLION to help fellow workers. The Walton Family gave $6,000

    The WALTON FAMILY Has Given LESS THAN 1% of Their Wealth to Charity. Bill Gates has given 58%

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve. -- Robert Frost