Share story

Vulcan CEO Jody Allen is taking a sabbatical with no specified return date.

In a memo to employees on Monday, Allen said she wanted to focus on “new philanthropic directions.”

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen launched Vulcan in 1986 with his sister Jody as CEO. The company has made big investments in revitalization of Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, brain-science research and space travel, among other areas.

Last week Paul Allen announced he was committing at least $100 million to fighting the Ebola outbreak. His news coincided with a promotional push for “We the Economy,” a series of 20 short films released recently by Cinelan and Vulcan Productions, which Jody Allen heads up.

“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,” Jody Allen said in her memo. “It has been a long while since I have taken time off to go into the field and it is long overdue.”

In August, Vulcan announced the hiring of media executive Barb Bennett as president and chief operating officer, saying it would free Paul and Jody Allen to spend more time on various Vulcan initiatives and run the diverse conglomerate.

Vulcan has about 600 employees, with interests in real estate, private-equity investment, philanthropy, sports, technology and media.

The company has been roiled over the past year by high-level departures and by lawsuits brought by several of the Allens’ former bodyguards. Vulcan Capital’s chief investment officer Paul Ghaffari left in April, as did Allen’s technology adviser, Parag Garg, there just six months.

Last year, reports surfaced that former members of Paul Allen’s personal security detail alleged Jody Allen sexually harassed security officers and tried to sneak giraffe bones out of Bot­swana after a safari. The Allens, through their attorneys, have denied wrongdoing.

According to a news report earlier this year, most of the bodyguards settled with Vulcan or prevailed at arbitration.

Vulcan told Reuters there was no end date to Jody Allen’s sabbatical but that she was expected to return.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or On Twitter @sbhatt