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Oscar Winner Now Billionaire on Tableau Sale to Salesforce

Devon Pendleton and Sophie Alexander
Oscar Winner Now Billionaire on Tableau Sale to Salesforce

(Bloomberg) -- Patrick Hanrahan, Tableau Software Inc.’s chief scientist and co-founder, is an Academy Award-winner, a Stanford University professor and, now, a billionaire.

The Wisconsin native is the biggest individual owner of Class B shares of Seattle-based Tableau, which makes analytics software that converts data into easy-to-understand charts and other graphics. On Monday, Salesforce.com Inc. agreed to buy Tableau in an all-stock deal valued at $15.3 billion.

Hanrahan owns 6.9 million of Tableau’s Class B shares, which have the same economic value as its traded A shares but with 10 times the voting rights. The value of his stake soared to $1.15 billion at 10:15 a.m., a third higher than at Friday’s close.

Hanrahan didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did a spokesman for Tableau.

Tableau sprung from a research project at Stanford, where Hanrahan is a professor of computer graphics. With former PhD student Christopher Stolte and venture capitalist Christian Chabot, Hanrahan spun it out as a separate business in 2003 and went public a decade later.

An early employee at Pixar, Hanrahan worked on “Toy Story,” among other films, and won Oscars for technical achievement. While at the animation studios, he was chief architect of a design software called RenderMan Interface that describes three-dimensional scenes and turns them into digital photorealistic images.

Despite Tableau’s success, Hanrahan’s roots are still firmly in academia. The billionaire’s primary gig remains his teaching role at Stanford’s school of engineering. He dedicates about 20% of his time to Tableau, where he’s a part-time employee, according to the latest proxy filing.

He’s not the only super-rich professor at the university. Computer scientist David Cheriton, an early Google investor, is worth more than $4 billion. Cheriton’s colleague Terry Winograd wasn’t an investor in Google but received pre-IPO stock when he worked there on sabbatical in 2002. As he puts it, “I’m not a billionaire, but I’m comfortable.”

Being in the heart of Silicon Valley gives Stanford professors the opportunities to create their own startups, angel invest in former students’ companies and split time between academia and industry. Many part-time lecturers at the university are also top venture capitalists.

“Stanford is very flexible with the line between industry and academia,” Cameron Teitelman, a founder of StartX, a community for Stanford-affiliated entrepreneurs, said in a December interview. “They’re very okay with people taking leave or working in industry for a couple of years or stepping out to do a startup and then coming back in.”

(Updates with Stanford professors in final three paragraphs.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Devon Pendleton in New York at dpendleton@bloomberg.net;Sophie Alexander in New York at salexander82@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pierre Paulden at ppaulden@bloomberg.net, Steven Crabill, Peter Eichenbaum

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