Latest Original Tech News
Jul 9, 2019
Share to linkedin Presidential candidate Ross Perot speaks during the 1992 Presidential Debates. (Photo by © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images) Corbis via Getty Images H. Ross Perot died at home in Dallas today. He was 89, and had been declining health for several years. Americans might know him best for his squeaky primetime TV talks during his two presidential runs in 1988 and 1992, when populist Perot railed against both big deficits and free-trade, warning of the “giant sucking sound” of U.S. jobs moving to Mexico. Despite his short stature and Texarkana twang, Perot was a true giant — in his vision for how computers were set to transform the world. Forbes estimates his net worth at $4.1 billion . The son of a cotton broker from Texarkana, Perot (b. 1930) got his start selling Christmas cards, garden seeds and newspapers. Then he tried bronco busting and broke his nose (twice). He was an Eagle Scout before he went to the U.S. Naval Academy. Perot spent four years at sea manning communications systems. That prepared him, in 1957, to join IBM as a salesman. He was so good as selling data processing systems and services that one year he met his annual sales quota by January 19. When IBM wouldn’t give Perot any more to sell, he quit. In 1962, with a check from his wife for $1,000, Perot founded Electronic Data Systems. “That’s all the money I ever put into my first company. We bootstrapped it from there,” he told Forbes in 2013. His timing couldn’t have been better, as President Lyndon Johnson (another legendary Texan) was ramping up his Great Society programs, and needed all the computing power Perot could muster to administer Medicare and Medicaid. EDS also worked for NASA and the Pentagon. Perot remembes sneaking his son Cape Canaveral to see the Apollo 11 launch only to find him later chatting with rocket scientist Werner von Braun. During the Vietnam War father and son watched bombing runs on Hanoi from the deck of the USS Enterprise and got involved in POW/MIA recovery efforts. TX billionaire businessman Ross Perot pointing to chart during self-financed TV ad/program promoting his run for president as 3rd party cand. (Photo by Ted Thai/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images) The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images In 1971 the leftist magazine Ramparts tagged Perot as “America’s first welfare billionaire.” His billions grew. By 1984 EDS processed health care claims and ran government IT networks. General Motors needed some of that data processing magic, and so it bought EDS for $2.1 billion. Perot’s take came to more than $800 million in cash and G.M. shares that he later sold for $700 million. In 1986 he was a key investor in Steve Jobs' NEXT Computer. In 1988, on the day his G.M. noncompete was up, Perot did it all over again, founding Perot Systems with $20 million of his own money, staffing it with former EDS employees, and tapping son Ross Jr. to run it. Fast forward to 2009 and Dell bought out Perot Systems for $3.9 billion — the Perots cleared $1 billion on that one. In the mid 1980s, Perot founded what turned into a third billion-dollar fortune, in real estate. With son Ross Jr. he founded Hillwood Development and acquired 30,000 acres of ranchland outside of Fort Worth, which they have transformed over the years into one of the nation’s biggest inland ports called AllianceTexas, with rail, truck and air access. Always keeping up with information technology, the Perots’ Hillwood in recent years has become a specialist in constructing distribution centers for the likes of Amazon and data centers for Facebook. After railing against NAFTA when running for president, Perot utilized AllianceTexas to benefit from it. Hillwood recently led a $250 million, taxpayer-financed expansion of the airport there, which is a FedEx Hub. Hillwood is even working with Uber and Bell helicopters on Uber Air. The world wants things done, not excuses. One thing done well is worth a million good excuses. Ross Perot Perot had since the Vietnam War era given tens of millions of dollars in support of POW/MIA recovery efforts, and had made numerous trips to Vietnam in person. He spearheaded the installation in Washington D.C. of the Air Force memorial, as well as the addition to the Vietnam War memorial of a haunting bronze sculpture of three brothers in arms. At Perot’s office (where he kept “ all the stuff that my wife won’t let me keep at home ”) an entire hallway was dedicated to Perot’s rescue from an Iranian prision of two EDS employees arrested in 1978. Perot, as recounted in Ken Follett’s thriller On Wings Of Eagles, assembled a crack team of vets to sneak into Iran and get his people out. “My father had a huge amount of courage,” Ross Jr. told Forbes. In honor of the work he has done in support of veterans, several years ago a U.S. Special Forces team presented Perot with a walking stick. Recovered from Tora Bora, Afghanistan after 9/11, it is said to have belonged to Osama bin Laden. Perot is survived by wife Margot, sister Bette, son Ross Jr., daughters Nancy and Suzanne, Carolyn, Katherine, and their families. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn . Send me a secure tip .