Nation & World

Paul Allen's $26 billion estate will take years to unravel

Much of Microsoft cofounder's wealth destined for charities

Bloomberg News

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., is shown in 2012 in Sun Valley, Idaho. He died Monday at age 65, leaving behind a fortune estimated at $26 billion. Allen had no wife or children, and half of his holdings likely will go to charity. 

Paul Allen
Bloomberg News Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., is shown in 2012 in Sun Valley, Idaho. He died Monday at age 65, leaving behind a fortune estimated at $26 billion. Allen had no wife or children, and half of his holdings likely will go to charity. Paul Allen

Billionaire Paul Allen’s vast holdings — real estate, art, sports teams and venture capital stakes — likely will take years to unravel.

Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, died Monday at age 65, with no spouse or children to divide his empire.

But there are many others with interests at stake, including family, staff and charities, as well as potential investors eager to snap up pieces.

“Even though this is a person’s life and their personal holdings, it’s almost like the dissolution of a major corporation,” said Darren Wallace, an attorney for Day Pitney who handles estate affairs for high-net-worth clients. “Even if things go along as you might expect, it could easily be three to five years.”

At least half of Allen’s $26 billion fortune probably will go to charity since he joined the Giving Pledge — a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals to give away most of their wealth — almost a decade ago, though some of his ventures may not be easy to liquidate or transfer to a charitable vehicle.

An estate tax bill will apply to much of what remains.

Vulcan Inc., the 32-year-old company that oversees Allen’s money, was the umbrella for a variety of his investments, activism and philanthropic units.

They include Vulcan Real Estate, a commercial portfolio that Bloomberg estimates is worth $1.5 billion, and Vulcan Capital, which tends investments in public and private companies.

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He also amassed one of the world’s greatest art collections and held ownership stakes in two professional sports teams worth roughly $3 billion.

His philanthropic interests were split among several other units.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, started by Paul and his sister Jody, oversaw assets valued at $766 million at the end of 2016, according to the latest filing available.

That private organization is distinct from the Allen Institute, a public charity that focuses on medical research, with Jody and several Vulcan employees serving as directors.

“Paul thoughtfully addressed how the many institutions he founded and supported could continue after he was no longer able to lead them,” said Lori Mason Curran, a Vulcan strategist. “We will continue to work on furthering Paul’s mission and the projects he entrusted to us.”

Vulcan owned companies and other entities that may not be easy to liquidate or transfer to a charitable vehicle. Far beyond real estate, for example, he founded Stratolaunch Systems, which has been developing the world’s largest plane to launch smaller vehicles into space.

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