Microsoft Co-Founder Is Accused of Harassment

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen has been sued for sexual harassment in Los Angeles Superior Court by a woman who says she was fired from one of the billionaire's businesses after twice rejecting his sexual advances on a business trip three years ago.

Allen strongly denied the charges brought by Abbie Phillips, a former manager and partner in Storyopolis Investments, his Los Angeles-based film, television and interactive media company. He said Phillips resigned after being confronted with allegations that she stole company funds.

Phillips' lawsuit, filed Thursday, accuses the computer mogul of twice forcing himself on her after she was invited to stay over at his Seattle mansion during a May 1996 business conference. The first time, Allen fondled Phillips' breast after "physically coercing her down," the suit says.

After chiding Allen, Phillips then retreated to a guest bedroom for the evening, the suit said.

"In the morning, he came in the closed bedroom door, let himself in, crawled into bed with her and attempted to have sex," said David Yardley, Phillips' Malibu attorney. "She jumped up, ran to the bathroom, closed and locked the door.

"She had a discussion with him the next morning, that it was inappropriate, that she was happily married and she would appreciate this not occurring again," he said. "He did not respond."

Almost immediately, Phillips was subjected to a "continuous campaign" of retaliation from Allen and his sister, Jo Allen Patton, who is also a shareholder and officer in the mogul's Vulcan Northwest holding company, the suit said.

Phillips was subjected to "irate complaints about trivial matters" during predawn telephone calls and was made to document her time at the office in 15-minute segments, the suit says. The suit says she was fired last April.

In a statement issued through Vulcan Northwest in Seattle, Allen said Friday that Phillips wasn't fired but, rather, "resigned when she was confronted with evidence relating to her misappropriation of business funds."

"Mr. Allen strongly denies all of the claims in the complaint, in particular the claims of sexual harassment and retaliation," said a spokeswoman. "Mr. Allen neither sexually harassed the plaintiff nor terminated her employment in retaliation."

The spokeswoman said Allen vowed to "vigorously defend against these claims in court" and expects to be fully vindicated. Also named as defendants were Patton, Vulcan Northwest and Storyopolis.

Yardley, Phillips' attorney, said the embezzlement allegations were "concocted" to justify firing his client because of the alleged sexual assault.

"We are investigating other instances of similar misconduct by Mr. Allen," Yardley added.

Allen, who co-founded the Microsoft empire with Bill Gates, owns the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League, the Portland Trail Blazers of the National BAsketball Assn., and technology companies.

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