What You Need to Know: Ross Perot

Ross Perot dies at 89, family spokesman says

H. Ross Perot, the self-made Texas billionaire who twice ran for president in the 1990s, died Tuesday at his home in Dallas, family members said in a statement.

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Family spokesman James Fuller told the Associated Press that Perot died early Tuesday surrounded by his family.

According to the Dallas Morning News, he died after a five-month battle with leukemia. His son, Ross Perot Jr., told the newspaper his father was "obviously a great family man (and a) wonderful father. But at the end of the day, he was a wonderful humanitarian."

"Every day he came to work trying to figure out how he could help somebody," the younger Perot told the Morning News.

Henry Ross Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, on June 27, 1930. His father was a cotton broker; his mother a secretary.

He attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he became a battalion commander and president of the graduating class of 1953, according to The Washington Post. He served in the Navy for four years before joining International Business Machines Corp. in Dallas, Bloomberg News reported. He became a star salesman at the company, according to Bloomberg, and in 1962, founded the company Electronic Data Systems with $1,000 borrowed from his wife, Margot.

The company’s big break came in the mid-1960s when the federal government created Medicare and Medicaid, the health programs for seniors, the disabled and the poor. States needed help in running the programs, and EDS won contracts — starting in Texas — to handle the millions of claims.

The company first sold stock to the public in 1968, and overnight, Perot was worth $350 million. In 1984, he sold the company to General Motors Corp. in a deal that included a seat on the company's board as its largest shareholder, Bloomberg reported. However, Perot was critical of the culture at the company, prompting General Motors to end their business relationship with Perot with a $700 million in a buyout, according to the news site.

Perot went on to establish Perot Systems, a computer-services company that would become a leader in health care information technology, according to the Post. He sold the company in 2009 to Michael Dell, a family friend and the CEO and founder of Dell Technologies, for $3.9 billion, the Post reported.

Perot ran in 1992 as an independent candidate for president, winning 19.7 million votes in the best independent or third-party candidate showing since 1912, when former president Theodore Roosevelt won 27 percent of the vote, according to the Post.

Perot’s second campaign four years later was far less successful. He was shut out of presidential debates when organizers said he lacked sufficient support. He got just 8% of the vote, and the Reform Party that he founded and hoped to build into a national political force began to fall apart.

However, Perot’s ideas on trade and deficit reduction remained part of the political landscape. He blamed both major parties for running up a huge federal budget deficit and letting American jobs to be sent to other countries.

Perot is survived by his wife, five children, a sister and 19 grandchildren, according to the Post.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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