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After 20 years, tech tycoon Bill Millard turns up, sort of

Monday, September 12, 2011

imageMaybe not since D. B. Cooper has there been a more compelling disappearing act than the Bay Area’s own Bill Millard, the wealthy one-time tech dynamo who disappeared from public view in 1990 after making a fortune as founder and CEO of the old ComputerLand stores. His drop from public sight may have also had something to do with the $100 million tax bill authorities say he owes. The Wall Street Journal says investigators confirm he’s living handsomely in the Cayman Islands, although they’ve been less successful in cracking the intricate web of financial accounts he’s stashed across the globe.

Add: For those unfamiliar, Millard was a blue-collar kid who grew up in Oakland, dropped out of USF, and for a time was head of data processing for the city of San Francisco before making his mark in computing with the IMSAI 8080, which seemed pretty nifty until a couple of kids in a garage named Jobs and Wozniak came up with something better. The “father of computer retailing” then made his fortune by founding the long-defunct ComputerLand chain in Hayward. While staying a step ahead of the tax hounds, he left behind a half-finished palace in Saipan, and at some point, the WSJ says, even acquired Irish citizenship. An excerpt:

He wasn't your typical entrepreneur. A devotee of est, a faddish self-empowerment regimen of that era, he had a fondness for aphorisms ("We're a family, not a company") and a contempt for convention. With his piercing green eyes, Mr. Millard saw himself more as a kind of philosopher king than a businessman, according to two people who worked for ComputerLand.

He and his wife, Patricia, built a Tudor mansion outside Oakland nicknamed "The St. James" and filled it with antiques, paintings and sculptures. He had a fleet of private jets at his disposal, including a Falcon 50 and a Learjet. He would work 14- and 18-hour days, fueled by peanut-butter sandwiches.

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