Sources: Paul Allen’s family foundation plans to add advisers, with Steve Ballmer among prospects

Sources: Paul Allen’s family foundation plans to add advisers, with Steve Ballmer among prospects

9:11am, 15th March, 2019
Sources say Jody Allen is reshaping the leadership team for the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in the wake of last October’s death of her brother, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. (Allen Institute / Kevin Cruff Photos) Five months after the death of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the billionaire’s sister is taking steps to put her own stamp on a family foundation thought to hold at least $750 million in assets. Sources tell GeekWire that Jody Allen, co-founder of the , is bringing fresh blood to the charitable organization. Among the names being mentioned as potential additions to the foundation’s board or to an advisory panel are former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nancy Peretsman, managing director of the New York investment bank Allen & Co. Three sources discussed the transition on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. No principals in the process — ranging from representatives of the foundation and the Allen family’s holding company, Vulcan Inc., to representatives of Ballmer and Peretsman — were willing to provide comment. Changes in emphasis have already come to light in the form of , and organizational shifts at the and But based on the reports from sources, the transition to the post-Paul era is likely to take months longer, if not years. Most aspects of Paul Allen’s legacy are staying constant: For example, the research institutes that Paul Allen created — focusing on subjects ranging from neuroscience to cell science to artificial intelligence — are said to be on solid footing for years to come. That’s largely due to arrangements that Allen made before his . In the past, the family foundation was exclusively directed by Paul and Jody Allen and people who worked for them. show the two Allens as the foundation’s sole directors. The organization’s officers and managers were all Vulcan executives, with the exception of assistant secretary Allen Israel, who was Paul Allen’s personal lawyer. The same forms list the foundation’s net assets as $756 million, with $43.4 million paid out for charitable purposes during 2016. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation supports a wide range of charitable programs — including efforts to monitor climate change’s effects on glaciers, on the world’s oceans and on coral reefs. It backed the , which , and is continuing to focus on employing high-tech tools for wildlife conservation. Combating homelessness, promoting arts and culture, and encouraging health innovations are also part of the foundation’s portfolio. Last year, the foundation to get a homeless resource center off the ground in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood. It has a rich history of . And just this week, it kicked off a challenge program aimed at . Widening a family foundation’s circle of advisers is a classic phase of organizational evolution, particularly after a major transition like the death of a founder, said Benjamin White, an Atlanta-based estate attorney who specializes in family-based philanthropy but isn’t familiar with the Allen family’s detailed circumstances. “If you want the foundation to continue for a very long time, you’ve got to get outsiders involved,” White told GeekWire. The shift suggests that the foundation could plot a future course distinct from that of Vulcan Inc.’s for-profit ventures. Ballmer and Peretsman may not have a direct business relationship with Vulcan Inc., but they’re not total outsiders, either. Peretsman worked with Paul Allen on a series of investment ventures going back more than two decades, including investments in and . She was named in Paul Allen’s as an alternate personal representative in case Jody Allen couldn’t take on that role. Ballmer, meanwhile, got to know Paul Allen during their time together at Microsoft. Allen in his 2011 autobiography “Idea Man,” but in the years that followed, the two billionaires became close friends. When news of Paul Allen’s death broke last October, Ballmer was one of the . “Paul was a truly wonderful, bright and inspiring person — and a great friend,” he wrote. “I will miss him.” In his post-Microsoft career, Ballmer built up years of expertise running his own family charity, the , and getting involved in civic projects such as . (Ballmer and USAFacts are partnering with GeekWire on a podcast and video series called ) He even credits Paul Allen, who bought the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, with getting him involved in the sports world through his . “He used to yell at me, ‘Steve, you got to do it, it will fire you up,’ ” . “That too changed my life for the better.” If Ballmer takes on a role with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, he’ll be in a position to return his friend’s favor.