Paul Allen has become the latest billionaire to sign on to a challenge by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to get America's wealthiest people to donate the bulk of their riches to charity.
In a statement Thursday, Allen, who co-founded Microsoft Corp. with Gates, said he plans to leave the majority of his estate, valued at roughly $13.5 billion, to philanthropy.
Allen, 57, made the pledge on the same day he commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which has handed out more than $400 million in grants and funding for nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest.
Allen, who announced in November he was undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, said he has planned to give away the bulk of his fortune for some time, but had not gone public with his intentions until now.
"Since the beginning, our philanthropy has been focused in the Pacific Northwest, where I live and work. I'm proud to have helped fund great work done by nonprofit groups throughout the region. But there's always more to do," Allen said.
"Today I also want to announce that my philanthropic efforts will continue after my lifetime. I’ve planned for many years now that the majority of my estate will be left to philanthropy to continue the work of the Foundation and to fund nonprofit scientific research, like the ground-breaking work being done at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. As our philanthropy continues in the years ahead, we will look for new opportunities to make a difference in the lives of future generations."
Allen follows in the footsteps of former business partner Gates and billionaire investor Buffett, who last month kicked off a public campaign to get U.S. billionaires to pledge the vast majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
Allen, the 37th richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine, co-founded Microsoft in 1975 with Gates and resigned as an executive in 1983 as he overcame a first bout with cancer.
He has been involved with philanthropy in the Pacific Northwest for 20 years, largely through his Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
Allen owns the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team and is a minority owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team. He created the Experience Music Project pop museum in Seattle.
In addition to Gates and Buffett — the two richest Americans with a combined net worth of $90 billion, according to Forbes magazine — others who have taken the pledge to commit at least half their fortune to charity include Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad, former chairman of insurer SunAmerica Inc. and founder of homebuilder KB Home, joined by his wife, Edythe; Silicon Valley's John and Tashia Morgridge, whose fortune came from Cisco Systems; venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins and his wife, Ann; media entrepreneur Gerry Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite; and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
The principals behind the campaign have set up a website, givingpledge.org, explaining the effort.
"While the Giving Pledge is specifically focused on billionaires, the idea takes its inspiration from efforts in the past and at present that encourage and recognize givers of all financial means and backgrounds," the site says. "We are inspired by the example set by millions of Americans who give generously (and often at great personal sacrifice) to make the world a better place."