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When Paul Allen first walked into Allen Israel’s office 15 years ago, he was just another high-tech entrepreneur looking for a lawyer. “It’s hard in retrospect to remember that back then Microsoft was one of several software companies in the Seattle area,” says Israel, a senior corporate partner at Seattle’s Foster Pepper & Shefelman. “In 1985, when people said Microsoft, it wasn’t the same impression people get today.” Israel now spends nearly all his billable hours on work for Allen, who has grown famous — and fabulously wealthy — from his founding stake in the Microsoft Corporation. That first post-Microsoft transaction that Allen brought to Foster Pepper launched a software company that has since become click2learn.com, inc., merely one of many investments in Allen’s “wired world” under the management umbrella Vulcan Northwest Inc. While the Allen relationship initially generated fairly traditional work for Foster Pepper’s corporate and trusts and estates practices, it has expanded with Allen’s ambitions, branching into areas such as venture capital, land use, and intellectual property. In the last six months alone, local matters for Allen included the debut of his $240 million interactive music museum and his implosion of the Kingdome to make way for a $430 million stadium complex. Such high-profile assignments have raised the coolness quotient of the 128-lawyer Foster Pepper, which in May announced an alliance with Dallas’s Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. Allen ranks as one of Foster Pepper’s largest clients (along with Costco Wholesale Corporation and Washington Mutual, Inc.), with an estimated 20-30 lawyers working on the account from time to time. With the eclectic stream of work that he generates, Allen is the kind of marquee client that attorneys pine for. “From a lawyer’s perspective, you bask in the reflected glory of the project,” says intellectual property partner Warren Rheaume, still glowing from the Experience Music Project’s June 22 opening gala, which featured Allen on guitar jamming with Robbie Robertson and Herbie Hancock. Back in 1992, Foster Pepper had formed a nonprofit corporation for a modest gallery to showcase Allen’s cache of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia; it mushroomed into an outlandish monument to American popular music and the creative process, throwing off novel legal projects along the way. Inspired by Allen’s passion for guitars, renowned architect Frank Gehry combined rippling silver, purple, and gold steel shingles with red and blue aluminum for the museum’s multifaceted shell. “Just like the music, it’s provocative and can generate controversy,” says real estate partner Beth Clark. She overcame resistance to Gehry’s design to secure a place for the 140,000-square-foot building on city-owned land beside the Space Needle. “When you thought of Seattle before, you thought of the Space Needle and the Kingdome,” says construction partner Jon Hong-ladarom. “Well, we’ve blown up the Kingdome, and now we’re creating what will be the next Space Needles.” The demolition in late March of the much-maligned Kingdome, the largest concrete-roofed stadium, was a risky proposition. Thousands of timed explosives were planted throughout the arena; Foster Pepper prepared liability releases for the international press. In place of the Kingdome, the firm is helping Allen erect a new home for his Seattle Seahawks football team, as well as new headquarters across the street for Vulcan Northwest and its affiliate Vulcan Ventures Inc., a venture capital fund with stakes in 140 companies. “Paul Allen has had a major impact on the landscape of Seattle,” says Linda Acosta, business affairs manager at Experience Hendrix L.L.C., the company formed by Al Hendrix to license his late son Jimi’s intellectual property. “He’s an industrial baron of the modern age.” If Allen is Seattle’s latter-day J. Pierpont Morgan, Foster Pepper is only too happy to be his Davis Polk & Wardwell.

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