Perot was a man who wore many hats in his lifetime.
For automotive enthusiasts, this has been a hard year in terms of losses. Many important and influential people were lost in the industry. One such is someone not often immediately thought of as an automotive influence, but what Ross Perot brought to the table was very important to the industry.
Most people know Ross Perot from his presidential runs and being parodied by Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live, but the man who also held a pivotal position at GM has passed away on July 9, 2019, at the age of 89. Reports are noting that Perot died of leukemia, and was at his home in Dallas at the time of his passing.
"Ross Perot was a patriot and an innovator. Our condolences go out to his family and friends," said a GM spokesman.
Perot’s path towards GM began when he sold his company, Electronic Data Systems, to General Motors in 1984. Sold to GM for $2.55 billion, the new structure position the operations as an IT subsidiary. This also meant a spot was opened up for Perot to join GM’s board as the largest shareholder, and he acted the as chairman of EDS. The venture was an effort to standardize a messy data network with dealers, factories, and their suppliers.
The partnership was not an easy one as Perot grew to become a critic of GM and the CEO at the time, Roger Smith over the automaker’s slow progress. Perot had hoped that the merger with EDS would bring a faster pace to the company, but Perot quickly became critical of how things were moving along.
It was noted by former GM president Jim McDonald that Perot spent more time talking to the media than at board meetings, which is often an effective way to light a few fires. However, the relationship would end in 1986 when GM bought out Perot for a staggering $375 million so he’d leave the board, and end conflicts with executives. While the relationship was hardly ideal, it’s sometimes necessary to stand your ground, and for that, he’ll always be an important, yet often overlooked, part of automotive history.