The lesser-known half of the duo that created the Microsoft technology empire, Paul Allen, has pledged to hand at least half of his estimated $13.5bn (£8.8bn) fortune to charity, taking up a philanthropic challenge laid down by his one-time business partner, Bill Gates.
Allen, who is rated by Forbes magazine as the world’s 37th richest person, yesterday announced that “the majority” of his estate would ultimately be left to philanthropic causes, with an emphasis on funding not-for-profit scientific research.
His declaration came a month after Gates and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett launched a campaign dubbed the “giving pledge” that urges America’s richest individuals to commit half of their fortunes to charitable causes.
Gates and Buffett have pooled much of their own money into the Gates Foundation, which targets diseases in developing countries.
The philanthropic pledge is a rare public statement by 57-year-old Allen, who stepped down from Microsoft in 1983 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and has recently endured chemotherapy to overcome a fresh battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Allen said he was making his intentions clear to coincide with the 20th anniversary of his own family foundation.
“I want to announce that my philanthropic efforts will continue after my lifetime,” said Allen.
“I’ve planned for many years now that the majority of my estate will be left to philanthropy to continue the work of the Foundation and to fund non-profit scientific research.”
Still resident in Microsoft’s hometown of Seattle, Allen developed a reputation for enjoying the trappings of wealth as his stake in the software company exploded in value.
Allen owns one of the largest private yachts in the world, a vessel named Octopus, which is often moored in Monte Carlo. He once dated the tennis star Monica Seles and he bought his hometown American football team, the Seattle Seahawks, in 1997.
A science fiction fan, Allen owns the chair occupied by Captain Kirk on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise in the movie series Star Trek.
The push to get billionaires to donate more of their money to charity began in earnest in May last year when Buffett and Gates quietly organised a summit meeting on philanthropy, discreetly held at a university in New York, to pitch the idea of their giving pledge.
Those present included Oprah Winfrey, the media mogul Ted Turner and the currency speculator George Soros.