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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

July 30, 2012 at 9:40 AM

How to divvy up the art when an ex-Microsoft exec gets divorced

In case you missed it, my colleague Ken Armstrong wrote a fascinating story about how a retired Microsoft exec and his ex-wife divvied up their $102 million art collection — which included works by Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent — in their divorce.

The retired Microsoft exec is Christopher Larson. He and his ex-wife, Julia Calhoun, got divorced earlier this year in King County Superior Court.

From the story:

Larson is a retired Microsoft executive, minority owner of the Mariners, and a graduate of Seattle’s private Lakeside School and Princeton University, where he studied economics and computer science. Calhoun is a devoted philanthropist, daughter of a working-class family, and a community-college student before graduating from Seattle University, where she majored in English literature.

Bill Gates introduced them. They wed in 1986 and separated in 2009.

In addition to the details of how they divided the artworks — What’s the worth of emotional responses to art versus its monetary value or its value in covering up a blank wall — the story is also a glimpse at the good old days when Microsoft stock soared through the roof.

From the story:

In the decades that followed, Microsoft’s stock split again and again. Those 56,600 shares turned into millions of shares worth hundreds of millions of dollars. After getting married, Larson, as a Microsoft executive, accumulated additional stock and other assets, creating a separate community estate worth more than $100 million.

Between 1986 (wedding) and 1999 (pre-bubble burst), “Microsoft stock appreciated more than 700-fold,” according to one court filing, which adds that as the couple’s wealth soared, “the parties spent freely.”

Give Armstrong’s story a read. It’s a fascinating one.

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