SEATTLE (Reuters) - Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen has the knack of being in the right place at the right time.
He was the man who persuaded Seattle school-friend Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard and in 1975 create a company called ‘Micro-Soft.’
And he was the man Seattle turned to in 1997 when Seahawks owner Ken Behring was preparing to take the franchise to Southern California.
Allen, an avid basketball fan who already owned the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, never planned on buying a football team.
“I was called to the National Football League out of civic duty,” Allen said in his memoir, “Idea Man.”
Both moves ended up rather well for Allen.
His 30 percent stake in Microsoft Corp - they dropped the hyphen - made him one of the richest men in the world, despite the fact he only worked there for the first eight years.
And the $194 million he stumped up to buy the Seahawks is now worth about $1.3 billion after the Super Bowl victory last year.
The 62-year old Seattle native, who still lives in his home town and raised the team’s famous ‘12’ flag ahead of the Seahawks’ thrilling win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship, cuts an odd figure at games.
A two-time cancer survivor and owner of 42 U.S. patents, he still carries the slightly detached air of a tech geek. He loves to play guitar and idolized fellow Seattleite Jimi Hendrix, but does not go in for rock and roll antics.
He is a massive benefactor in Seattle, funding everything from libraries and universities to brain research, the local indie music station and the best cinema in the city. He put $100 million into Ebola research last year, making him the biggest private donor fighting the disease.
But it is his quiet support of the Seahawks that makes him a local hero.
“He’s very popular with the fans. I’ve never heard a single bad word about Paul Allen in the stands,” said Andrew Brummett, a senior director of IT at Microsoft and a Seahawks season ticket holder. “He can make a case to be the best owner in the NFL. He does two things exceptionally well: he invests, and he doesn’t interfere.”
Allen has not always been an astute investor. He lost billions of dollars in the cable television business and got burned in the tech bust of 2000. But his revitalization of Seattle’s South Lake Union area - from strip clubs and panel beaters to Amazon.com’s gleaming headquarters - has put him back on track.
Allen is now ranked 47 on Forbes magazine’s global rich list with a fortune of $17 billion. He has bought many toys with that money, from Monet paintings and old mainframe computers to World War II fighter planes.
But perhaps his prize possession is his latest: a locally made, 50-watt, Seahawks-themed guitar amplifier that goes up to ‘12’, a nod to Spinal Tap and the Seattle fans, that showed up on Facebook last week.
Chances are Allen will be in the right place to play some rock anthems at the Seahawks post-Super Bowl party.
Reporting by Bill Rigby. Editing by Steve Keating.