Video: Extreme (financial) makeover

By Silicon Valley Bureau Chief
CNBC
updated 2/3/2006 2:43:08 PM ET 2006-02-03T19:43:08

When the Seattle Seahawks take the field at Super Bowl XL -- the first in the franchise's 30-year history -- it'll kick off Paul Allen's extreme makeover, investment edition.

It’s a big win for the team's owner and Microsoft co-founder -- always in Bill Gates' shadow but now squarely in the spotlight -- and he’s loves every minute of it. You just don’t get the huge, cheering crowds from a good piece of software. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

So while his former partner toils away in the office as the country's richest man, Allen is content with being the third richest, having a $20 billion fortune, spending what he wants and investing where he wants.

His $675 million investment in DreamWorks SKG paid off big; his tens of millions on the search for extraterrestrial life -- his nickname is Paul “alien” -- not so much. There’s the billions he lost on cable and dot-com darlings that ultimately went bust, and the $240 million he spent on a Portland Trailblazers team so ethically and legally challenged they were nicknamed the "jailblazers.” There's also his $200 million, 416-foot private yacht, the world's largest, complete with two helicopters, and its own submarine.

But with his beloved Seattle Seahawks heading to their first Super Bowl ever, and last year's X-Prize win, financing the first private vehicle into space, Allen is living large, spending big, walking tall and having fun.

“Paul Allen is like a techy hero, right? You invent something cool, you drop out, you let your partner finish it, you make a ton of money and you buy toys,” says author Andy Kessler. “I think he's having fun. That's why he's a hero.”

Nick Licata, Seattle City Council President, says Allen “has been a major contributor to the arts and culture in Seattle.”

Allen’s also reshaping Seattle's skyline, funding Quest field, his own corporate headquarters, the Union Station renovation, the Cinerama, Experience Music Project museum, and up next, turning Seattle into the Silicon Valley of biotech with his giant 60 acre, 10 million square foot South Lake Union project.

“It took a visionary and a creative leader such as Paul Allen to really recognize the diamond in the rough here and pursue the redevelopment of the property that he owns here,” says Ada Healey, vice president Vulcan Ventures.

But forget about that for a second. Allen is going to the Super Bowl in what could be the ultimate revenge of the nerd.

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