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PeopleSoft founder plans mega-mansion

David Duffield, founder of PeopleSoft Inc., has submitted plans for a 72,000-square-foot home that would eclipse the mansions of his more famous peers, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Some of the computer software industry’s richest moguls may soon be dealing with a case of castle envy.

David Duffield, a billionaire who amassed most of his fortune by reluctantly selling PeopleSoft Inc. last year, has submitted plans for a 72,000-square-foot home that would eclipse the mammoth mansions custom-made for his more famous peers, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.

But Duffield’s palatial vision may never be realized.

The project already is facing intense opposition from the neighbors who would have to live in the shadow of the proposed three-story home in Alamo, Calif. — a tiny suburb about 30 miles east of San Francisco.

Alamo resident Bruce Smith, whose family previously owned the 8,000-square-foot home that Duffield hopes to demolish to make room for his new house, said the land was never intended for a residence that will dwarf the 60,645-square-foot Hearst Castle and the 55,000-square-foot White House.

“I really don’t have a problem with a man pursuing his dreams, but this is just too much,” Smith said in an interview Wednesday.

Efforts to reach Duffield were unsuccessful.

Jim Dugdale, Duffield’s project manager, defended the proposed home in an interview published Wednesday in the Contra Costa Times, which first reported the building plans.

“It’s a lovely designed home that complies with all the rules and the established practices of the area,” Dugdale told the Times.

In an e-mail sent to The Associated Press late Wednesday, Dugdale said nearly half the house — about 33,000 square feet — “has been designed principally for storage and mechanical systems.” He declined further comment in a brief telephone discussion.

The plans are drawing mixed reviews from Duffield’s neighbors, said Richard Maxey, manager of the Bryan Ranch Homeowners Association, which encompasses the 22 acres where Duffield wants to build.

“There are a lot of emotions,” Maxey said Wednesday. “Some people want it to be built because they think it will enhance their property values. I am also getting a lot of complaints about ’monsterization’ and ’mansionization.”’

Duffield’s proposal is still subject to approval by an association’s architectural committee. In his e-mail, Dugdale said the Duffields plan to work with the architectural committee and homeowners association to complete the project.

With an estimated $1.1 billion fortune, Duffield isn’t as well known or as wealthy as the men who founded the world’s largest software companies — Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp.

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman, tapped into his $51 billion fortune to build a 48,000-square-foot compound near Seattle, while Ellison spent more than $100 million of his $17 billion fortune on a Japanese-style estate in the hills overlooking Silicon Valley. Ellison’s living quarters reportedly is about 10,000 square feet.

If not for Ellison, Duffield might not be trying to build the mansion.

Duffield, 65, had been semiretired from PeopleSoft, living in a huge estate near Lake Tahoe until Ellison launched a hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft in 2003. Duffield returned to the San Francisco Bay area to run PeopleSoft a year ago in a last-gasp effort to thwart Ellison, but his company ultimately capitulated and sold to its larger rival for $11.1 billion.

As PeopleSoft’s founder, Duffield pocketed one of the biggest windfalls. He is now using some of that money to start another San Francisco Bay area software firm, named Workday, that may mount another challenge to Oracle.

Duffield’s insistence of building a castle evokes the image a “billionaire bully,” Smith said. “He is trying to do to us what was done to him at PeopleSoft. This is sort of a takeover of our neighborhood.”