Catching up with: Paul Allen

Elusive exec shoots a few answers

Now we know what it take to make a reclusive billionaire talk: really angry sports fans.

In a striking shift, press-shy Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen recently gave The Oregonian newspaper a few thoughts on the state of basketball and his investment philosophy — which he characterized as increasingly conservative.

No surprise there, given the cash that’s evaporated in his string of abysmal investments.

The future of the privately held DreamWorks, where he’s committed about $1 billion, is unclear amid continued rumors of an IPO or possible merger. His publicly traded cable company Charter has been decimated.

But it’s the people of Portland who are really up in arms because, under Allen’s watch, the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers were were embroiled in a string of player scandals and may lose $100 million this year — more than any team in the history of pro sports.

“Allen has to be considered one of the worst sports owners ever. Who ever spent so much money for so much embarrassment?” asked ESPN.com.

“I would have to say I’m not getting the return I hoped for at that level of payroll,” Allen told The Oregonian.

Many have tried to coax him to, but Allen’s never said that, publicly at least, about DreamWorks. He’s the company’s biggest single shareholder but he won’t see a return on his investment any time soon. He just doesn’t talk about it, period.

And he’s never participated in regularly scheduled conference calls with worried investors to discuss a vision for debt-ridden Charter. Its stock has plummeted from $30 to $2.

“Sure he’s got a ton of money. But just think how much more he’d have if he had done better,” observes one media insider.

Allen, 50, is described as slightly nerdy and very smart, though shy. But Portland has heard him. Now Wall Street would love to.

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