Paul Allen, who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates, died on Monday afternoon after a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his family confirmed to Business Insider. He was 65.
Allen, a tech billionaire, was a philanthropist and the owner of the American football teams the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. He operated Vulcan Ventures, a venture-capital fund.
Allen was first diagnosed with the cancer in 2009, and disclosed earlier this month that it had returned after a period of remission. At the time, Allen said that he planned on staying involved with his various business ventures. It was the third time that Allen has been diagnosed with some form of lymphoma. He survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma after being diagnosed in the 1980s.
Allen, a Seattle native, and Gates were childhood friends. In 1972, while in high school, the pair launched Traf-o-Data, a software company that tracked and analysed traffic patterns. When Gates went to Harvard, Allen stayed local and went to Washington State University, though he ended up dropping out.
It was Allen who suggested that the two work together to make a BASIC language interpreter for the then cutting-edge Altair 8800 microcomputer, which became Microsoft’s first product. The name “Micro-Soft” for their joint venture was Allen’s idea.
Further, Allen was responsible for the key deal that made Microsoft a major player in the PC revolution: When Gates promised IBM in 1980 that Microsoft would supply an operating system for its flagship PC, it was Allen who went and purchased the rights to the “Quick and Dirty Operating System,” or QDOS, from developer Tim Paterson. Microsoft rebranded QDOS as MS-DOS, or the Microsoft Disk Operating System, and supplied it to IBM per the deal.
In 1983, Allen stepped aside from day-to-day operations at Microsoft, not long after beginning treatment for his first diagnosis with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He remained on the company’s board of directors until 2000.
Allen would later write that his departure was marked by a period of friction with Gates, where they disagreed over the direction of the company. Allen said that Gates tried to buy out his shares in the company, but that he ultimately decided to hang on to his stake – which made Allen his fortune when Microsoft went public in 1986.
Allen was also known as a musician. As a guitarist, he fronted a band called The Underthinkers, and wrote or co-wrote every song on their 2013 album. He also founded Seattle’s Experience Music Project, or EMP, which was originally a museum devoted to his hero Jimi Hendrix. Allen also started the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, in the same building as the EMP. The two have since been combined into the Museum of Pop Culture.
Allen’s net worth was pegged at $20 billion.
Lymphomas are cancers that attack the lymphatic system. Non-Hodgkin’s is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma.