Microsoft co-founder slams ruthless Bill Gates
Billionaire Paul Allen still can’t get over being shafted by Bill Gates more than 25 years ago
Why, after all these years, is Paul Allen digging the knife into his Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates? After all, their partnership made them both multi-billionaires, and Allen hasn't even had to work for the last 25 years. What's he got to complain about?
A good deal, according to Allen's memoir, Idea Man, extracts from which have appeared in Vanity Fair and the Wall Street Journal ahead of publication on April 17.
Everyone knows the story of how a couple of nerds from Seattle's Lakeside School put their heads together to devise the computer software which would come to dominate the way the world does business.
But Allen now portrays his erstwhile partner as a grasping, monomaniacal bully who stooped low enough to try to force him out and cut his share of the company even as he was recovering from cancer.
"I'd been taught that a deal was a deal and your word was your bond," Allen writes. "Bill was more flexible."
Allen, now worth £8 billion to Gates's £40 billion, had thought they would own Microsoft 50/50: Gates haggled him down to 64/36. Things got worse as the company took off and Gates saw its true potential. He prowled the car park to spot who was working and who was not, accusing Allen of slacking. He thrived on conflict and sarcasm.
In 1982 Allen fell ill with his first bout of Hodgkin's lymphoma. When he got back to the office, he overheard Gates plotting with Steve Ballmer, today's Microsoft CEO, to dilute his stake in the company.
"Unable to stand it any longer," Allen writes, "I burst in on them and shouted 'This is unbelievable! It shows your true character.'" He quit, demanding $10 a share. Gates offered him only $5, and so he left keeping the shares. They now trade at $25-plus. He does not mention how lucky that was.
Gates's motive? "It was mercenary opportunism," writes Allen. "Pure and simple."
Others, however, believe Gates may simply have been ditching his "wingman". They have a vital role in start-ups, but once things get going, the dominant partner breaks free to cash in. That's business.
"While all of us considered Paul a friend and valued his contribution," says Carl Stork, who worked for Microsoft for 20 years, "there is no question that Bill had a far larger impact on the growth and success of Microsoft."
Harvard Business School professor David Youffe gives Paul Allen credit for being a driving force in the early days - "I'm not sure Bill would ever have dropped out of Harvard if it wasn't for Paul" - but his contribution may have ended there.
Gates (pictured above with Allen at a basketball game in 2000) has taken the high road, saying in a statement to the Wall Street Journal: "While my recollection of many of these events may differ from Paul's, I value his friendship and the important contributions he made to the world of technology and at Microsoft."
Given that Gates is the most successful capitalist entrepreneur of his day, it is no surprise that behind the geeky glasses he is as ruthless as JP Morgan or Andrew Carnegie of the Golden Age.
What is surprising is that Allen, the 57th richest man on earth, owner of a venture capital firm (Vulcan), a football team (the Seattle Seahawks) and his favourite basketball team (the Portland Trail Blazers) should still hold a grudge.
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