Paul Allen on 60 Minutes: Bill Gates a task-master, challenging to work with

Having recently published his autobiography, “Idea Man,” co-founder of Microsoft and billionaire Paul Allen sat down with Leslie Stahl in an interview aired last night on 60 Minutes.

In the interview — as in the memoir — the 58-year-old billionaire attempted to tell his side of the story of the founding of Microsoft, perhaps still showing some amount of animosity toward his co-founder, Bill Gates.

Talking about the company’s humble beginnings, Allen remembered approaching Gates with various ideas, one of which incidentally led to the founding of the company.

“I would have, you know, ten ideas, and he would kind of pick them apart, one by one,” he recalled in the interview. Spotting a magazine which announced a new computer called the “Altair,” the co-founder excitedly approached Gates with the issue, which led to the duo setting out to build software for the computer, and subsequently founding Microsoft.

But despite their upbeat early days, Allen said the relationship between the duo turned sour down the line. Intriguingly, the Microsoft co-founder said Gates had become “brow beating”, a “tough task-master”, and wasn’t afraid to resort to “personal verbal attacks.” The two, he said, would be involved in spats that lasted hours and had each yelling and screaming at the other.

As the company grew, Allen was diagnosed with cancer. At that time, he overheard a conversation between Gates and Steve Ballmer, an early Microsoft employee and current CEO, in which the two considered diluting Allen’s shares in the company. Ballmer later apologized to Allen, although Gates never spoke about the meeting.

Soon after, Allen left the company, keeping his shares and cured of cancer. Since that time, the billionaire has distributed his fortune across various personal interests and activities. Last year, he sued many large Internet companies over decade-old patents owned by his former company, Interval Research.

Asked if a meeting about the book with Gates today will involve any raising of voices, he said, “I don’t know about screaming, but I’m sure it’ll be a heated discussion.”

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