Preston McAfee

Preston McAfee

Company: Microsoft Corporation

Position: Chief Economist

R. Preston McAfee, Corporate Vice President and Chief Economist of Microsoft, is an economist who has worked extensively in pricing, auctions, antitrust, business strategy, market design, computational advertising and machine learning applied to exchanges.  He is the author of over 100 refereed articles, seven patents and three books.

McAfee received a B.A. in economics from the University of Florida in 1976, M.S. in mathematics and economics, both in 1978, and Ph.D. in economics in 1980, from Purdue University.  He has taught at the University of Western Ontario, the University of Texas, MIT, the University of Chicago, and Caltech, where he was executive officer for the social sciences.  He joined Yahoo in 2007 as chief economist, moved to Google in 2012, and joined Microsoft as CVP and chief economist, in 2014.

Working with colleague John McMillan in the 1980s, McAfee developed research that showed how auctions could be designed to improve government procurement and sales.  This theoretical and empirical research was used in the 1994-5 sales of spectrum (radio frequencies) by the FCC, which netted $20B for the government.  The auction design that emerged has been used around the world, in the sale of over $100B in spectrum.  For this work, McAfee was awarded a Golden Goose award in 2014.

In 1995, McAfee, McMillan and Stanford professors Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson formed a company, Market Design, Inc., that provided auction advice and expertise in many countries.  This company has branched out from spectrum to serve other markets, notably electricity.

McAfee has done extensive work in antitrust, and testified in the mergers of Exxon and Mobil, BP and Arco, and Peoplesoft and Oracle.  In addition, he testified in the FTC v. Rambus.

In 2006, McAfee finished Introduction to Economic Analysis, a freely available textbook covering both introductory and intermediate microeconomics.  He won the Association of Research Libraries’ SParc Innovator award in 2009.

Participates in the sessions:

  • The 4th Industrial Revolution – our present reality


    The 4th Industrial Revolution – our present reality

    The 4th Industrial Revolution – our present reality

    The exhaustion of current drivers of economic growth. The knowledge-based economy and the European development model. Reindustrialisation – in theory and practice. Modern industry as a foundation for development – towards European specialisations. How is value created in the economy today? The international division of labour and the world superpowers in the light of technological progress. Facets of innovation – the importance of the R&D sector in European industry. How to fund and sell it, or innovations in the market. Digitisation of the economy – opportunities and pitfalls. Information and big data management as a challenge for business, administration and citizenship. Cyberthreats – prevention is better than cure.

  • Humans in the centre - the economy, the market, and labour


    Humans in the centre - the economy, the market, and labour

    Humans in the centre – the economy, the market, and labour

    Work, workers and the hierarchy of values in the economy. Man is most important – from catchphrase to management. Brain potential, i.e. human resources in the European economies. Qualifications determine development prospects.

    Disproportion, internal diversification and the openness of the European job market. Migration, the brain drain, competition for the most talented. How are the technologies of the future changing private and professional lives? XYZ, or a new generation of workers – an asset or a liability? Changes in national education systems in the light of employer expectations. How to educate for the market in an era of constant change? Social capital, a deficit good.


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