It’s been a little more than a year since billionaire Paul Allen’s passing, but the course he charted to give away his fortune remains a private secret, described as a complicated work in progress by the Seattle Times in the article that asks and answers the question “What’s happening to Paul Allen’s billions? A year after his death, it’s complicated.”
There’s been some recent chatter that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, was interested in buying an NFL team, and possibly the Seattle Seahawks. This has sparked renewed curiosity about what has happened to the Allen empire.
Paul Allen was a philanthropist and interested in many different endeavors, from sports to fine art, pop culture and nonprofits, real estate investing and science. What will be kept within the family, what will be sold and what shape will the promised philanthropy take?
The answer to the question of when all of this might happen is perhaps the only clear answer: not yet, and maybe not for a while. Experts say that it can take years for such a vast empire to be unwound. His estate includes businesses, investments, properties, world-class fine art, and other valuable assets. Giving away what might be as much as $10 billion, or more, is not something to be done quickly.
As to who is in charge, that is Jody Allen, trustee, sister, and along with her family, the sole heir. A biography on the website of Vulcan, the business that Paul and his sister Jody co-founded, says that she has the responsibility for preserving and implementing his vision for generations to come. Jody’s intentions are unknown, outside of a tight and protective inner circle.
A Vulcan spokesperson said that the company is committed to tackling the world’s toughest problems, but nothing more.
The expectations are great, based in part on the long and varied record of philanthropy from Jody and Paul Allen. He gave away $2 billion during his lifetime to business, scientific, and cultural entities.
One of the main channels for philanthropy is the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which has given away at least $575 million. At the end of 2018, the foundation had assets worth more than $931 million and made more than $48 million in contributions.
Vulcan, the company, and the family foundation will continue to exist for many years, putting their stamp on science, the arts, environmental causes, and educational programs.
Reference: Seattle Times (November 26, 2019) “What’s happening to Paul Allen’s billions? A year after his death, it’s complicated”