Paul Allen and Microsoft

I had always wondered why Paul Allen had exited Microsoft so early and so completely. While he remained on the board for years after his departure, for a founder he never really seemed to have any close ties with the company he helped start. I thought maybe the inequitable setup between him and Bill Gates might have rubbed him the wrong way, but considering how he made out finacially in the end that seems a bit far fetched. Cringely offers more details that I hadn't heard before. This article is certainly fuel for flames Internet-wide, but without more context it's hard for me to join in. When you own a company, it's your fiduciary responsibility to make sure things run smooth. While the topic discussed is an unfortunate one and one most people will never have to deal with, it is one that is just reality. That's were context comes into play, at least for me. It could have been a discussion of the “we need to get these shares before this guy croaks” variety or of the “if he unfortunately does not pull through this, we need to ensure that the company survives” variety. Given the personalities involved, it may vary well have been the former but I'm not in a position to know that. I'm guessing only Bill and Steve (and possibly Paul, depending on how good his hearing is) will ever know. Maybe Bill is so philanthropic now as a result of guilt brought on by decisions like these (or maybe he just needs the tax break). To me the interesting question raised here is, what would Microsoft look like today if Paul Allen had 50% and/or had stayed at Microsoft. Their corporate culture would be different for sure, but they may very well have been less financially successful in the short term (having possibly been less shady). The current deep distrust and dislike by many may have been avoidable then though. Less anti-monopoly lawsuits and less “anything to get away from Microsoft” sentiment. That means many less people (from an end user perspective, not a developer one) may have even considered Open Source. Steve and Bill really are creating their own worst enemy in many ways, aren't they. In the end we'll never know. Paul sums things up from his side quite nicely though – “I made out okay”. At least financially, he sure did…
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One Response to Paul Allen and Microsoft

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hmm, interesting story. Allen, I believe, got away cleanly and appears to have managed to have not become sullied by the rest of the Microsoft bad press. If the tale of “how do we get the shares back” is true, then that must have felt like a huge betrayal. On the other hand, as you said, this could just have been a very straightforward question taken on a business basis. Cold, but arguably necessary.

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