Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has died of cancer, aged 65

Paul Allen passed away from complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Paul Allen passed away from complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Image: AP Photo/John Froschauer
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Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with high school friend Bill Gates, died today (Oct. 15) at the age of 65 from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to a statement put out by Vulcan Inc. on behalf of his family.

He was first diagnosed with the cancer in 1982, sparking his departure from Microsoft. Allen had most recently received treatment for the disease in 2009 and believed it to be in remission. On Oct. 1, he wrote publicly about resuming treatment once again. “I plan on fighting this aggressively,” he wrote. “A lot has happened in medicine since I overcame this disease in 2009. My doctors are optimistic that I will see good results from the latest therapies, as am I.”

The owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, Allen was among the world’s wealthiest people, with an estimated net worth of $20.3 billion. After leaving Microsoft, he made a name for himself as a philanthropist, giving away in excess of $2 billion, including $500 million to his Allen Institute for Brain Science and $30 million towards affordable housing in Seattle.

Allen was one of the first Silicon Valley investors to successfully invest in space technology. He spent $20 million to fund a team led by the aircraft designer Burt Rutan that won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 by launching a reusable, crewed spacecraft into orbit twice in two weeks. That historic first gave credibility to private space companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin at time when venture capital was unproven in orbit.

In 2011, he founded Stratolaunch Systems Corp, his own space company, which hoped to make satellite deployment “as easy as booking an airline flight.”

Tributes poured in from the tech world—though not just for his achievements in the sciences. Writer and entrepreneur Anil Dash remembered him as “a brilliant technologist” who “leaves a huge legacy in business and sports,” and mentioned “his unabashed enthusiasm for Jimi Hendrix, showing how a ‘tech guy’ could deeply love music, left as big an impression on me as anything Microsoft ever did. I’m thankful for that.”

In a statement, current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella described Allen’s contributions as “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.”

Born in Seattle, Allen spent most of his life in Washington state, attending Washington State University before dropping out after two years in order to work as a programmer. (Later, he would persuade Gates to drop out of Harvard and set up Microsoft with him.) He never married or had children.

In a statement, his sister described Paul as “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.” She remembered his “wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern,” and the time he made for family and friends.