H. Ross Perot

Perot, H. Ross (Henry Ross Perot), 1930–, American business executive and political leader, b. Texarkana, Tex., grad. Annapolis, 1953. In 1957 he resigned his commission and became a salesman for IBM. In 1962 he founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS), one of the first computer data service companies. In 1984, he sold EDS to General Motors, but retained an interest in the company. Bitterly critical of General Motors management, he sold his remaining interests in EDS to GM for $700 million (1986). He diversified into real estate, gas, and oil and in 1988 started a new computer service company, Perot Systems.

Perot came to national attention during the Iran hostage crisis (1979), when he funded an operation that rescued two of his employees from an Iranian prison. In 1992, he emerged as an independent candidate for president, expressing serious concern over the national debt. After a departure from the race in July, which alienated much of his support, he returned in October and finished third in the general election with nearly one fifth of the popular vote. He subsequently opposed the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In 1995 Perot founded a new national political party, the Reform party, as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties. As the party's 1996 presidential candidate, he again finished third in the presidential race, but with a much reduced popular vote. While Perot remained a significant force in the party, during the late 1990s his role was gradually eclipsed by the Reform governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura.

See K. Follett, On Wings of Eagles (1983); D. Levin, Irreconcilable Differences: Ross Perot versus General Motors (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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