Paul Allen in memoirs: Gates wanted to 'rip me off'

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by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on March 30, 2011 at 8:09 PM

SEATTLE -- It makes sense that in the Paul Allen Center at the University of Washington, the start-up spirit is strong, and young entrepreneurs are taking lessons from the building's namesake.

"Paul Allen's contributed so much, not just to our department here," said Josiah Adams, a computer science student, of the Microsoft co-founder. "My understanding is that they way things broke up between [Allen and Bill Gates] wasn't on the best of terms, but I didn't know the details of that."

But on April 19, he'll get a chance to see those details, at least from Allen's perspective.

Allen's upcoming book, entitled "Idea Man: A Memoir by the Co-Founder of Microsoft," focuses heavily on Allen's sports teams and other endeavors -- like his involvement in developing a commercial spacecraft.

"Paul Allen's been sick, his cancer's come back," said Brier Dudley, Seattle Times technology columnist who has covered Microsoft for years. "He's been thinking about stuff obviously, and how he's going to be perceived by future generations."

But the segments catching the most buzz are his candid reflections on a deteriorating relationship with his Microsoft co-founder, excerpts of which Vanity Fair published Wednesday, including:

I was Mr. Slow Burn, like Walter Matthau to Bill’s Jack Lemmon. When I got mad, I stayed mad for weeks. I don’t know if Bill noticed the strain on me, but everyone else did. Some said Bill’s management style was a key ingredient in Microsoft’s early success, but that made no sense to me. Why wouldn’t it be more effective to have civil and rational discourse? Why did we need knock-down, drag-out fights?

"It's an unusual glimpse behind the scenes of a company that's really changed Seattle and the world," Dudley said.

In the excerpts, Allen praises Gates's brilliance and business acumen, but also paints him as a man who kept trying to drive down Allen's control of the company.  He included an anecdote, after he was first diagnosed with lymphoma, in which he said he caught Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer talking.

They were bemoaning my recent lack of production and discussing how they might dilute my Microsoft equity by issuing options to themselves and other shareholders. It was clear that they’d been thinking about this for some time.

...

I helped start the company and was still an active member of management, though limited by my illness, and now my partner and my colleague were scheming to rip me off. It was mercenary opportunism, plain and simple.

"The most surprising thing of all was is that Paul Allen wrote this book and publicly aired this dirty laundry," Dudley said.

Other said they were not surprised that the book talks about the bickering before they were billionaires, given the cutthroat nature of start-up businesses.

"It's not all about  friendship unfortunately," Adams said. "It's about business."

Still, others said Allen doesn't necessarily need a memoir like this to cement his place in the history books.

"I think his legacy will speak for itself," said John Peterson, a UW Computer Science staff member. "He's very passionate about education, I mean we wouldn't have this building without him."

A Microsoft spokesperson said Ballmer would not be commenting on the book, but Gates, in a written statement, said, "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."
 

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