FEATURE-Paul Allen gaining respect with sports, real estate moves

SEATTLE, April 30 Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:59am BST

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SEATTLE, April 30 (Reuters) - Paul Allen, the lesser known co-founder of Microsoft Corp, has struggled for decades to make his mark as a business mogul beyond the software company he started with Bill Gates.

Since he quit Microsoft in 1983, the quiet Seattle native has lost billions of dollars on ill-conceived or mistimed technology investments, and he has been mocked as a juvenile playboy manqué for spending lavishly on giant yachts and off-beat projects like a Frank Gehry-designed rock museum.

But in recent years, Allen's ventures in decidedly low-tech sectors - sports teams, commercial real estate and energy pipelines - have come to look prescient.

Together with a new round of tech investments and an ambitious philanthropy program, they may yet establish Allen as much more than Gates' lucky junior partner.

Allen's NBA Portland Trail Blazers and NFL Seattle Seahawks, both purchased years ago for what appeared to be non-business reasons, are now worth many times what he paid for them. Even his part-ownership of the Seattle Sounders soccer team, which draws more fans than any other franchise in its league, is looking like a good bet.

At the same time, Allen has all but single-handedly transformed the once-shabby South Lake Union district near downtown Seattle into the Pacific Northwest's hippest tech outpost, anchored by Amazon.com Inc.

And a recent foray into the energy business yielded a $2.25 billion return from a $200 million investment in Plains All American Pipeline.

These wins are changing the perception of the shy 60-year-old, a two-time cancer survivor who rarely appears in public.

"He is under-appreciated in Seattle," said David Brewster, long-time civic leader, publisher of local news website Crosscut.com and founder of the Seattle Weekly newspaper. "He's remote and reclusive. There's too much Howard Hughes in the way he behaves for Seattle truly to appreciate a lot of the good that he does."

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