Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates, has died at the age of 65.
Allen’s company Vulcan said in a statement that he died Monday. Earlier this month Allen said the cancer he was treated for in 2009, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, had returned.
Allen, who was an avid sports fan, owned the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks.
Allen and his high school friend Gates founded Microsoft in 1975. He served as the company’s executive vice-president of research and new product development until 1983, when he left for health reasons. He stayed as a major shareholder and member of the board.
“I am heartbroken by the passing of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Paul Allen,” said Bill Gates in a statement on Monday.
Despite being less well-known than Bill Gates, Allen played a critical role in developing the personal computer at a time when the typical computer was the size of a room and far too expensive for most people or businesses to own.
It was Allen who came up with the name Microsoft and, according to his memoir Idea Man, it was he who came up with the idea to write a software program for the world’s first micro-computer.
“During the founding first eight years my ideas were definitely key to the company. Bill would test my ideas. I would come to him with another 10 ideas that never went anywhere – he was the sanity check on the flow of ideas,” Allen told the Guardian in a 2011 interview. “When it came to selling and marketing and staffing and all those kinds of things, he was much more excited on the business side, so we became very complementary.”
Microsoft’s big break came in 1980, when IBM decided to move into personal computers. IBM asked Microsoft to provide the operating system.
The decision thrust Microsoft onto the throne of technology and the two Seattle natives became billionaires. Both later dedicated themselves to philanthropy.
“Paul Allen’s contributions to our company, our industry and to our community are indispensable,” said Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella. “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.”
Allen founded Vulcan in the mid-80s to invest in media and communications companies including DreamWorks Animation and the cable company Charter Communications.
Several technology executives paid tribute to Allen on Twitter.
“We lost a great technology pioneer today – thank you Paul Allen for your immense contributions to the world through your work and your philanthropy,” said Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai.
Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, added: “Our industry has lost a pioneer and our world has lost a force for good. We send our deepest condolences to Paul’s friends, the Allen family and everyone at Microsoft.”
Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, described Allen as a “great leader in tech and a man of all seasons who fully enjoyed his life and wealth yet also gave back to the world at scale”.
Over the course several decades, Allen gave more than $2bn to a wide range of interests, including ocean health, homelessness and advancing scientific research.
Allen invested heavily in his hometown of Seattle, helping to transform the South Lake Union neighbourhood into a thriving business district.
In 2013, the billionaire released a rock album with his band the Underthinkers. Allen wrote or co-wrote all 13 songs and played guitar alongside his collaborators Chrissie Hynde, of the Pretenders, and Joe Walsh of the Eagles. This was Allen’s second album – in 2000 he released one with a different band, Grown Men.
Allen was also owner of one of the world’s largest superyachts. The 126m-long Octopus, valued at $250m, has two helicopter pads, a swimming pool, a submarine, 13 guest cabins and a music recording studio. In 2015, he used it to find a second world war battleship off the coast of the Philippines.
His keen interest in aviation led him to collect and restore more than 30 vintage planes, including Soviet and Nazi war planes, which are kept in hangars in a Seattle suburb.