Scott Oki grew up in a Japanese American family in Seattle and after service in the U.S. Air Force, he attended the University of Colorado. He started his own computer software company in San Francisco, then moved back to the Seattle area in 1982 to join Microsoft. Laurie Oki grew up in Denver, the daughter of a homemaker and an airline pilot.
The Microsoft Years
Scott Oki conceived and single-handedly built Microsoft's international operation. Within two years it was more profitable than Microsoft's domestic operation. Bill Gates then made him Vice President of Domestic Operations. According to the journal Asian American Business,
"As the new vice president of sales, Oki quickly restructured Microsoft's operations by firing and laying off nearly half the existing sales and marketing force. Within five years Microsoft's revenues rose from $100 million to $1 billion while gross profit margins grew from 63% to over 80%, raising the U.S. division's pre-tax profits to 30%."
Scott retired from Microsoft, Inc. in 1992 at age 43 as Senior Vice President for Sales, Marketing and Services, owning some one-half million shares of Microsoft stock. "I guess I took the easy road," Oki told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2003. He felt, "no need to amass even more fortune." Laurie Oki left her position as Regional Sales Vice President for Ralph Lauren Fragrances.
The Oki Foundation
The Oki’s dramatic increase in wealth made it possible (and advisable under tax laws) for them to endow the Oki Foundation. "We are so fortunate that things happened the way they did that we want to share it," Laurie told The Seattle Times in 1994. "If it can help one person, it is more than one person than before," Scott said. The Okis credited Mary Gates (mother of Scott Oki’s boss at Microsoft) and Samuel Stroum (businessman and a major supporter of the arts as well as the Jewish Community Center) as models for community service and philanthropic giving.
In 1993, Scott and Laurie showed their support for Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center by pledging $1 million themselves and challenging others to contribute $10,000 each in what was called the Circle of Love. This planned-giving program was picked up by 21 other pediatric hospitals around North America as the Circle of Care to honor donors who give $10,000 a year to children’s health care facilities.
They have also given to King County children through organizations such as Children’s Theatre, YWCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts of America, and numerous agencies supported by United Way of King County. Scott served as past President of the University of Washington Board of Regents and Chair of Children’s Hospital Foundation. Laurie served as the President of Seattle Children’s Theatre.
Even in a business venture, Scott Oki was philanthropic. He founded the new Seattle Sounders Soccer Club and then dedicated the profits, or 2 percent of the ticket sales, whichever was greater, to community youth programs. The Sounders helped support the Special Olympics and gave free Sounders tickets and soccer clinics to underprivileged youth. Other business ventures included seven golf courses and a Japanese restaurant in Seattle’s Madison Park (designed by Laurie). Oki Developments manages the family’s business operations.
In 1999, Scott made 380th on Forbe’s list of wealthy Americans with an estimated fortune of $750 million. In 2002, the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors named Scott and Laurie Oki First Citizens of the year. In 2003, Scott found time to serve on 24 different profit and not-for-profit boards, be the number one volunteer at the Oki Foundation, and play some golf.