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Paul Allen: From Partner to Pest

Bill Gates has a long line of critics. I was one until he started trying to save the world by giving away the vast bulk of his vast wealth.

Over the last few decades I've spent most of my working time covering software vendors. Gates was clearly a brute to software partners and competitors, most of whom are now out of business. That's what made me a critic.

But someone I never expected to rain on Gates' parade is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, out hawking a new book.

Books these days are based less on fine prose and insight, and more on controversy and criticism. Don't believe me? Look at all the garbage penned by washed-up politicians. So it is any wonder that Allen's new book takes shots (you can decide if they are cheap or not) at Gates? According to Allen, when Microsoft started, he expected that he and Gates would share ownership 50/50. Gates talked him down to 60/40 then 64/36, both in Bill's favor.

Later when Steve Ballmer joined, and Allen was suffering from tough health issues, Gates and Ballmer got together to dilute Allen's shares further. Some equity went to Ballmer, some went to other execs as incentives.

There are two sides to this coin: The book clearly shows Gates' spare no prisoners business approach. Then again, Microsoft grew, in part, because it could entice the best and the brightest with stock incentives.

Where do you stand? Are you upset that Paul Allen only has little more than $10 billion, or did he have to take one for the Microsoft team? Share your thoughts on this urgent matter at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/01/2011 at 1:18 PM


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