Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen passed away this afternoon in Seattle at age 65, owing to complications relating to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Vulcan, the privately held company that Allen founded in 1986, released a statement that says it is “with deep sadness that we announce the death of our founder Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and noted technologist, philanthropist, community builder, conservationist, musician and supporter of the arts.”
His sister, Jody Allen, a businesswoman and long the CEO of Vulcan, released a separate statement, writing that her 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.”
Allen had been battling for the second time non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that originates in the body’s lymphatic system and causes tumors to develop from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
Just two weeks ago, Allen disclosed that the cancer, for which he was successfully treated nine years ago, had returned, writing on Twitter that his doctors were “optimistic that I will see a good result.”
In recent decades, Allen was known for many things, including his love of sports, his love of music, and, relatedly, expensive toys, out of which he often built collections.
Allen owned the Seattle Seahawks NFL team, the Portland Trail Blazers NBA team and was part-owner of the Major League Soccer club the Seattle Sounders FC. A highly capable guitarist, Allen also amassed an impressive number of guitars over the years, including pieces that had belonged to Jimi Hendrix and Woodie Guthrie.
Allen’s 414-foot mega-yacht “Octopus” may have made the most headlines, because of its grand scale but also for its ambitious expeditions. Most notably, in 2015, directed by Allen, a research team used the vessel to discover the wreck of one of the biggest warships of the Second World War, the Japanese ship Musashi, which sank in 1944.
Allen told CNN at the time that his fascination with World War II history stemmed from his father’s service in the U.S. Army, saying, “The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction.” (Allen also owned at least 20 World War II airplanes at one point.)
Despite his decadent lifestyle, the personal computing pioneer was also known for his philanthropy, most recently donating $30 million to Seattle’s city government to help it build an apartment complex that’s expected to house 94 homeless or low-wage families. In 2010, he also signed the Giving Pledge, thereby committing to give away more than half of his fortune. His net worth was most recently estimated to be roughly $20 billion.
Allen resigned from Microsoft in 1983 when he was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s, which has become more treatable in recent years but can be fatal if not caught early enough or when it causes respiratory failure or infections.
He first met his co-founder, Bill Gates, when both attended Lakeside School in Seattle. Allen was 14 years old at the time. Gates was 12. Less than a decade later, they created Microsoft, though by the time Allen left the company, their long friendship was in apparent tatters.
Indeed, in 2011, Allen published an autobiography that characterized Gates as demanding and confrontational and said while he was battling cancer back in 1982, Gates and eventual Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer were “scheming to rip me off.”
Gates and Allen seemed to have a kind of reconciliation subsequently, even recreating a classic 1981 photo of the two of them in 2013. In a statement released this afternoon, Gates said that he was “heartbroken by the passing of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Paul Allen.”