Tom Alberg, who guided Amazon and helped turn modern Seattle into a high-tech hub, dies at 82

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Tom Alberg, an entrepreneur with a vision for innovation in the tech world, who backed Amazon with one of its first investment checks when it was founded and helped shape many companies and organizations civics in Seattle, died Friday at age 82 after suffering a stroke last month.

Alberg was co-founder of Madrona Venture Group, which has been investing in Pacific Northwest tech startups for 27 years.

Best known for his initial investment in Amazon, he served on the company’s board for 23 years and helped guide it through the years when it lost large sums of money before it became the e-commerce profit engine that now dominates retail in the United States. and beyond.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos tweeted that Alberg was “a visionary and also just a wonderful, good man. I was so lucky to have you in my life, Tom.

Bezos’ successor as Amazon CEO Andy Jassy tweeted that while Alberg’s “professional and civic accomplishments were many”, what impressed him most “was his character – humble , high integrity, missionary, community minded – as good guys as they come.”

Before Amazon transformed retail, Alberg’s focus on technology clients helped make Perkins Coie the largest law firm in the North West, where he served as lead outside counsel for Boeing and Alaska Airlines. And he took an executive role at McCaw Cellular, which later became AT&T Wireless.

He helped jump-start the growth of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington.

And he joined Seattle’s big business CEOs and former Gov. Chris Gregoire to launch Challenge Seattle — a hub for business and community leaders to focus on civic issues affecting the region.

He was one of the directors who developed the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Seattle.

He also turned his family’s farm in Carnation into the nonprofit Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, which researches and practices sustainable farming methods. And he co-founded Novelty Hill and Januik Wineries in Woodinville.

News of his death prompted messages of sympathy on Saturday from business leaders in the region, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Nadella said of Alberg, “Through his work, his vision and his humanity, he had a profound impact on our industry and our community.”

The grandson of a Swedish immigrant, Alberg grew up in Ballard and attended Ballard High School. He worked on the family farm known as the Oxbow property which he later incorporated into the non-profit organization.

He earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a law degree from Columbia Law School, where he served as editor of the Columbia Law Review.

He worked as an attorney at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York before returning to Seattle and joining Perkins Coie.

Among the businesses supported and guided by Alberg at Madrona are Redfin of Seattle, a technology-based real estate company; Bellevue’s Apptio, which develops business management software; and Impinj of Seattle, which makes radio-frequency identification devices and software.

Alberg is survived by his second wife, Judi Beck; five children: Robert, Katherine Anderson, John, Carson and Jessica; and four grandchildren.

The family is asking for keepsakes to be made in the form of contributions to the Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center.

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