By on July 9, 2019

Among the broader masses, H. Ross Perot is probably best known for his third-party runs for the U.S. presidency. However, to us, he’ll always be the man who gave General Motors’ CEO (1981-90) Roger Smith a piece of his mind and the old the stink eye. He died on Tuesday at the ripe age of 89.

Perot sold his company, Electronic Data Systems, to GM in 1984 for a cool $2.55 billion. The General was eager to have EDS as a subsidiary, hoping to use the company to help modernize its industrial organization and product line. It even wanted to keep Ross on board to move things along. Unfortunately, Perot turned out to be a vociferous, no-nonsense kind of guy and found himself at odds with Smith — and the rest of GM — rather quickly. 

By 1985, the marriage was already beginning to sour. Immediately disenchanted with automotive bureaucracy, Perot became openly critical of how GM did its business. Famous for being fiercely loyal to his company and employees (he once funded and dispatched commandos into Iran to pull out two EDS employees that had been imprisoned over a contract dispute in 1979 — read On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett), he felt GM wasn’t respecting EDS’ autonomy and issued a letter to then-CEO Smith.

“If you continue your present autocratic style, I will be your adversary on critical issues. I will argue with you privately. If necessary I will argue with you publicly,” he explained.

The media quickly caught wind of the building internal tensions, creating negative some publicity for the automaker. Ross’ candid style didn’t help create any peace.

The following year, the company paid Perot to leave the board — earmarking $750 million to purchase of all of his GM stock. According to the Los Angeles Times, Ross put the money in escrow for two weeks to give the automaker time to reconsider a buyout plan that would close 11 factories and throw 30,000 people out of work. “I’ve got to live with myself,” Perot said. “Why should I take this money? It would be morally wrong.”

GM’s official position on the man has improved since then, with Automotive News quoting the carmaker as saying “Ross Perot was a patriot and an innovator. Our condolences go out to his family and friends,” following news of his death. However, executives present during his brief time with the company still remember him as cantankerous.

A true character within the industry, and at large, he decided establish a new computer services company in 1988 before making a run for the presidency in 1992 — under the banner of ending government deficits, bureaucratic red tape, and corporate lobbying. Highly condemnatory of Washington, he accused it of becoming a town of  “sound bites, shell games, handlers, media stuntmen who posture, create images, talk, shoot off Roman candles, but don’t ever accomplish anything. We need deeds, not words, in this city.”

“It’s not the Republicans’ fault, of course, and it’s not the Democrats’ fault,” he said during the debates. “Somewhere out there there’s an extraterrestrial that’s doing this to us, I guess.”

Popular with voters from both political parties (and especially independents), Perot bailed out of the the race at the peak of his fame… only to suddenly return, earning 19 percent of the popular vote. His 1996 campaign fared comparatively poorly and he retired from political life — occasionally weighing in on issues or candidates after 2008.

An Eagle Scout, navy officer, billionaire tycoon, and one hell of an interesting man, Perot died at his home in Dallas after a five-month fight with leukemia.

 

[Image: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock]

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46 Comments on “Ross Perot Died Today...”


  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    He was a straight shooter.
    ;-)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    RIP

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    I was a little bummed to hear this today. I grew up about 10 miles from where he lived in North Dallas, and during the 90’s in Dallas his shadow over the city was pretty large. You certainly couldn’t have avoided talking about him during his Presidential runs in ’92 and ’96.

    I even met his grandsons while working at a Boy Scout Summer camp. I worked as a handicrafts instructor and his grandsons attended my classes. I think that was either the Summer of ’98 or ’99. They were good boys, a little quiet and reserved at the time. They listened to what I told them and they put real effort into their projects. Given that it was just a Boy Scout handicrafts class (leatherworking I think, I am not sure though), I couldn’t have asked more from them.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I was offered a job by EDS back in 1984, right before GM took hold of the company. It was absolutely autocratic. The interviewer got up and looked over the edge of her desk to make certain that my shoes had strings and they weren’t slip-on’s. Trimmed mustaches were OK, beards were anathema. Suits, & white shirts – that’s how it went. Armed guards everywhere you looked, it was a very scripted affair!

    I turned the offer down because I though it wasn’t compensatory enough for the work involved and I could see myself wilting under the regimentation. That said, there was no denying EDS was a very successful outfit and it was done so by Perot’s sheer determination, focus and unyielding drive.

    BTW, a man walked out of an office and turned down the hall in front of me while I was there (Bethesda, MD – near D.C.) and I was told by the interviewer that he was one of the two that had been held hostage in Iran.

    • 0 avatar
      ScarecrowRepair

      I interviewed very briefly with EDS after I got out of the Navy in 1976. Guy spent about 5 minutes telling me about their dress code (not even clip-on ties! white shirts, narrow ties, the whole shebang) before I got up and left. I turned down several other job offers years later for dress code problems too, but none were as uptight as that EDS guy.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well he was the only one predicting that NAFTA would cost jobs in the United States.

    “Hear that GIANT sucking sound?”

    I distinctly recall that he also proposed a 50 cent per gallon federal gas tax that would be indexed to the price of a barrel of oil. The price would go up and the tax would go down and vice versa. This was to stabilize the cost of gasoline.

    I was 16 when he ran in 1992. My dad watched all of Mr. Perot’s infomercials that he ran as campaign tactics. I’m fairly certain he voted for him.

    • 0 avatar
      Jean-Pierre Sarti

      I did not know this part of ole H. Ross Perot very interesting.

      funny you mention those infomercials. In light of the choices we have today it would, as the millennials say, “break the internet” if something like that happened today. Say a Michael Bloomberg…just picking a name out the air.

      Although i think he will win the next election; Trump is way more vulnerable to a moderate candidate now than G.H.W.B. was in ’92.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I think 20 years later he should have taken out another ad. Just walked out and said,”I told you so!” He ended up right on pretty much everything.

      RIP

      • 0 avatar
        ScarecrowRepair

        No, he was not right on pretty much everything. His gas tax would not have been as bad as outright price controls, but it would have had the opposite of its intended effect. He was wrong about NAFTA.

        I’d have voted for him anyway except for that ridiculous time-out he took. Claimed his daughter’s life was at stake, something silly. If he was that freaked out while a candidate, how would have have acted if elected? Would he have just taken a vacay and left the VP in charge? Sorry, Charlie.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I voted for Perot which was the very first time I voted for an independent and the first time I did not vote for a Republican for President. Looking back George H was not a bad President and now I wish we had a President like him. I would rather have any of the candidates from 1992 than our current President and most of the current Democrats running for President. Perot was right about NAFTA.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      Yes, anyone from 92 would have been better.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        It is somewhat amazing that the USA continues on, after making so many bad choices regarding its President. Bob Dole, John McCain, Jack Kemp, John Kerry, and John Glenn would all have, in my estimation, made better Presidents than those who defeated them either for their party’s nomination or in a presidential election.

        Not to mention Doug MacArthur, who successfully ‘ran’ two Asian nations, but never got the chance in the USA.

        And as another poster mentioned, I still have hopes for a Michael Bloomberg candidacy.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Arthur, in America all politics is local. Meaning, how does the current administration affect me and mine?

          President Trump has had a highly positive effect on the lives of many working and retired American citizens. But those are not in the majority, without Independents like me.

          There are roughly twice as many liberal Democrats registered to vote in America, as there are conservative Republicans.

          But without the votes of Independents like me, neither party can attain a clear majority to elect someone.

          So that’s where the Electoral system comes in. Whichever candidate loses always vocalizes that the Electoral system should be abolished.

          If America went strictly by the popular vote, only the big states and cities would determine who would be elected.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Not to mention Doug MacArthur, who successfully ‘ran’ two Asian nations, but never got the chance in the USA.

            @Arthur – I respect you man but Douglas MacArthur was an egotistical jacka$$ on a level that eventually made Eisenhower throw up his hands when they were both still in the Army. Ike had been MacArthur’s aide.

            https://www.nps.gov/features/eise/jrranger/5accomp4X.htm

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          “John McCain”

          I can only imagine how many MORE wars we’d be involved in right now…

          • 0 avatar
            psychoboy

            plot twist: we’d only be involved in *one* war…but everyone else would be in it, too.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @PrincipalDan, Thanks and what you wrote is true. However under MacArthur prior to WWII the Phillipines was the most prosperous and modern nation in Asia.

            After WWII MacArthur took over a thoroughly devastated Japan and created an economic miracle.

            Plus as Rodney Dangerfield (Thornton Mellon) so eloquently phrased it in Back To School to his history professor (played by Sam Kinison), if Truman had allowed MacArthur to have his own way in Korea, we wouldn’t be worried now about a monolithic China hijacking the world’s economy.

          • 0 avatar
            markf

            “John McCain”

            “I can only imagine how many MORE wars we’d be involved in right now…”

            You got that right……

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Perhaps, but don’t give Barry a pass:

            cnn.com/2014/09/23/politics/countries-obama-bombed/index.html

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            “John McCain”

            “I can only imagine how many MORE wars we’d be involved in right now…”

            The choice between Barrack Hussein Obama and John McCain was even worse than the choice between George W Bush and Al Gore or John Kerry. That being said, I think he’d have been less likely than Obama to bleed our military based on polls with absolutely no objective other than pacifying munitions makers.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I would encourage anyone who lionizes Ross Perot to read the book Ed Rollins wrote, which details his time on the Perot campaign. Apparently Perot was a grade-A paranoid freak, and assuming Rollins was on target with his observations, I’m glad the guy never got elected.

    (For the record, Arianna Huffington comes off even worse.)

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      I remember reading stories of Perot accusing Bush of trying to do something to his daughter’s wedding.

      https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1992-10-26-mn-761-story.html

      Right or not about NAFTA he was total nutter who gave us the Virus known as the Clintons…….

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Is our current President any better? Not lionizing Perot but he was right about NAFTA, our deficit, and at least he was an independent businessman not inheriting the family business and fortune. Got news for you I have not meet one human being that didn’t have some issues.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Our current president ran alone and did not split the vote causing the horrible clintons move from hillbilly southern politics into the decades long american and world power that resulted.
      even the rise of the hillary power politics is enough to make me dance on his grave.
      he knew, as everybody points out his brilliance, our nation was never designed for a three party race.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        “…our nation was never designed for a three party race.”

        What a strange thing to write.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Yep. It’s the old zero-sum game, and it only works if it’s a game for two. I win by making you lose.

          And it’s worked so, so well for us, hasn’t it?

          I used to think third parties were a non-solution, but maybe I was wrong.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I remember his quote when he came on board with GM in ’84…”I don’t know that much about cars but I know all GM cars leak oil”

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Well he was correct at that time. Every GM car I owned during that time and before leaked oil. That is one thing GM did finally fix.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    I seem to recall sometime after the ‘92 campaign when his car had some sort of failure, and which was picked up by the news outlets. The car was an ‘85 or ‘86 Olds Ninety-Eight which he drove himself. He may have even guessed the problem — a starter solenoid — and it turned out he was right!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Yes Perot drove Oldsmobiles. When he started out he drove Plymouths. He saw a film on him years ago where he talked about when he started out in his career he had a Plymouth.

  • avatar

    I wonder if Perot won election how long it would take for usual suspects to develop PDS and blame Russia in intervening in elections. Perot of course was not clown or a reality show star but still he was not a politician and did not give a — about playing according to rules.

    And if GM was so bad why did he sell EDS?

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “And if GM was so bad why did he sell EDS?”

      It was a massive chunk of change, enough to give him a controlling stake in GM from what I’ve read in the past few days. A decision that Roger Smith regretted very quickly and they ultimately bought him out.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, if goal was to control GM he failed miserably and in the process destroyed the great company of his. Did GM buy also Hughes Electronics and Hughes Aircraft (and why?). On the other hand it did not buy AMC/Jeep and killed Hummer. Go figure.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I guess no one remembers Mr. Perot said he wanted to abolish public education ? .

    An amazing man to be sure .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      He also did interesting things like when he got wealthy enough he went to Texarkana (where he was born and raised) and purchased the house he had grown up in. It was a brick house but someone had painted the exterior. He paid a contractor to remove each painted brick and turn it around so the unpainted side would be exposed. In short he restored the house to the condition it was in when he was a boy.

      That’s an indication of a little bit of obsession combined with “eff you” money.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      Weirdly, when i google “perot abolish public education” your comment here is the only relevant hit that seems to come up. You have any sources I can study up on?

      I see a lot of words about his near-singlehanded reformation of Texas schools in the 80s, which pissed off just about everyone who had been involved with the preceding two decades of terrible performance. Apparently, suggesting that teachers should be tested for literacy resulted in hundreds of angry illiterate letters showing a wide lack of support among teachers for the measure. I see some suggestions about abolishing Boards of Education and possibly the end of the Department of Education, but considering how the GPA per dollar ratio has been slipping since Carter created the DoEd, that’s not necessarily a non-starter.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        All you needs do is find his campaign literature, that’s where I discovered that troubling fact .

        Illiterate teachers is a real problem and not just in TEXAS .

        I was astounded at how poorly educated some of my son’s High School teachers were and they were ashamed of that fact and tried to hide it by assigning massive amounts of unnecessary homework any time a student asked them any question .

        The simple fact that _I_ spotted them as deficient shows how bad the problem is .

        I had to work the system hard to get him a decent education, they seemed to think they are just better compensated baby sitters .

        Not all of them of course but even _one_ is too many .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          psychoboy

          I’ve looked, and what little I can find only points to getting rid of the federal dept of education, returning public school control to the state and local governments, as it was for the first couple hundred years of this nation’s history.

          I don’t find anything that implies a wholesale abolishment of public education.

  • avatar

    Our election laws are specifically set up to allow only Team A or Team B. Perot’s greatest legacy was getting both parties to agree to NOT fight him at the “Board of Elections” level, because it would expose the way the system is rigged to allow only the two major players…..

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Hopefully Howard Schultz will follow H Ross Perot’s lead. Only the completely deranged will vote for a candidate from a party that has a field of twenty candidates who’ve said they’ll provide free healthcare to illegals only a few years after they passed legislation to fine American citizens for being unable to afford healthcare. Schultz could pull the merely dim-witted away from the Kelloggs coalition of Democrat voters and doom them for another cycle.


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