Jody Allen, the sister and long-time confidante of billionaire Paul Allen, is leaving the CEO post at Vulcan, the investment, real estate and philanthropic organization that manages the Microsoft co-founder’s wealth, GeekWire has learned.
In a statement, a Vulcan spokeswoman described the change as a sabbatical, though sources tell us that they’d be surprised if Jody Allen returned. The sources noted a growing rift between the siblings over the years, with tensions bubbling over issues that include Vulcan’s recent donations to the Ebola fight.
Her sabbatical begins today.
In a memo this morning to Vulcan employees obtained by GeekWire, Jody Allen wrote:
“We have had a very busy year here at Vulcan, with many impressive accomplishments, including our recent announcements around our Ebola campaign. As you know, we recently welcomed Barb Bennett as our new COO, to enable me to focus on our philanthropic programs. Having successfully shepherded our Ebola work through last week’s very successful announcements, I have decided this is a good time for me to take a sabbatical. It has been a long while since I have taken time off to go into the field and it is long overdue.I am looking forward to stepping back from daily operational responsibilities and focusing on new philanthropic directions. ”
A source familiar with the changes noted that Jody Allen was not always well received by Vulcan staffers, with a revolving door in the executive ranks over the years. A number of layoffs also have occurred at Vulcan. On the executive review site Glassdoor.com, Jody Allen receives an approval rating of just eight percent.
The rift between Paul and Jody grew after allegations arose three years ago that executives at Vulcan, including Jody Allen, had engaged in unethical behavior related to the organization’s security personnel. The lawsuit brought by the security guards, alleging sexual harassment, bribery and smuggling, was settled last year.
Vulcan is a complex organization, with interests in venture capital, sports, philanthropy and real estate. And one person familiar with the organization said that Jody Allen was in over her head.
That is part of why Vulcan hired Barbara Bennett in August, with a source telling us that they needed a “professional.” Bennett previously served as vice president and CFO at Digital First Media, and before that spent three years in a presidentially-appointed role as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chief Financial Officer. Before the EPA, she spent 17 years in executive roles at Discovery Communications —parent company of Discovery Channel.
While tensions had grown between Paul and Jody, a source noted that there was not a huge “palace rift” that caused Jody to leave, with plans in place for some time. That is part of why Bennett was brought on board, with the executive starting at Vulcan as president and COO on Sept. 22.
Paul Allen, the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers, has an estimated net worth of $17 billion. He was in the news recently for donating $100 million to the fight against Ebola, one of many philanthropic causes that Paul Allen has supported. He’s also played a key role in the development of Seattle, holding real estate interests in the South Lake Union and Yesler Terrace neighborhoods, as well as in Renton.