Tom Perkins

Tom Perkins

Thomas James Perkins (born 1932) is an American businessman, capitalist, and was one of the founders of leading venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.


Perkins received a B.S. in EECS (course 6) from MIT in 1953. He earned an MBA from Harvard in 1957. [ Extensions of Remarks. Representative Anna G. Eshoo, [ "In honor of Thomas J. Perkins inducted into the Business Hall of Fame by the Santa Clara County Chapter of Junior Achievement".] Congressional Record. 103rd cong., 2nd sess., 1994, (19 April 1994): E715.]

While attending MIT, Tom joined the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.


In 1963, he was invited by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard to become the administrative head of the research department at Hewlett-Packard. He was the first general manager of HP's computer divisions, credited with helping shepherd HP's entry into the minicomputer business. During the 1960s, he also started University Laboratories, which was later merged into Spectra-Physics.

In 1973, with Eugene Kleiner, Frank Caufield, and Brook Byers, he co-founded Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the first Sand Hill Road venture capital firms. He served as a director of Applied Materials, Compaq, Corning Glass, Genentech, Hewlett-Packard, and Philips Electronics. [cite web
title=KPCB Biography of Tom Perkins
] He served as the only chairman of Tandem Computers, from its founding in 1974 until its 1997 merger with Compaq. Perkins was also chairman of Genentech from 1976 until 1990 when it merged with Roche Holding Ltd. [cite web
title=Tom Perkins to Give Aspen Chairman's Address
date=August 1, 2005

During the HP/Compaq merger fight in 2001, Perkins was a member of the Compaq board and an outspoken supporter of the merger. [cite news
author=Matt Marshall
title=Venture Capitalist Pushes Hewlett-Packard-Compaq Merger
date=December 23, 2001
publisher=San Jose Mercury News
] He joined the HP Board of Directors in the merger, retired, and officially rejoined the HP board days before Carly Fiorina was fired from her posts as chairman and chief executive officer of HP.

Controversial Resignation from HP Board

Perkins resigned from HP's board on May 18, 2006 over the actions taken by the board's chair, Patricia C. Dunn, to ferret out the board-level source of media leaks using methods Perkins considered unethical and possibly illegal. HP gave no cause in the SEC-required 8-K filing, and according to Perkins refused to amend the filing to indicate his reasons for resigning.cite web
title=Perkins Letter to HP Board
] In response, Perkins disclosed his reasons publicly, triggering an SEC investigation and significant media interest into HP's leak-finding activities.cite news
author=Christopher Lawton, Dionne Searcey and Shawn Young
title=H-P Faces Probe Over Its Inquiry Into Board Leaks
date=September 7, 2006
publisher=The Wall Street Journal
] cite news
author=David A. Kaplan
title=Intrigue in High Places
date=September 6, 2006

Perkins's residential phone records were obtained through a method known as pretexting. AT&T confirmed that someone pretended to be Perkins, using his phone number and his Social Security Number.cite web
title=Letter from AT&T to Tom Perkins regarding Pretexting
date=August 11, 2006
] HP confirmed that the investigative firm they hired used pretexting to obtain information on the call records of the directors.cite web
title=HP 8-K Filing Reporting Leak Investigation
date=September 6, 2006
] HP's investigation found that Dr. George Keyworth II was the source of several leaks. At the May 18, 2006 board meeting, Dr. Keyworth admitted to leaking information but refused to resign after the board passed a resolution calling for his resignation. HP's board decided on August 31, 2006 to not renominate Dr. Keyworth for another term as director.

The SEC and the State of California have both begun inquiries into the methods used by HP to investigate its directors.

Personal life

Perkins had two children with his first wife, the late Gerd Thune-Ellefsen. After she died in 1994, he married romance novelist Danielle Steel in March 1998; her book "The Klone and I" (ISBN 0-385-32392-1) was about their friendship. They separated in August 1999 and were later amicably divorced.cite news
author=Pui-Wing Tam and Jeffery A. Trachtenberg
title=True Romance
date=January 14, 2006
publisher=The Wall Street Journal

In 1996, Perkins was convicted in France of involuntary manslaughter arising from a yacht-racing collision, forcing him to pay $10,000 fine. [cite web
title=Tom Perkins' manslaughter conviction
date=June 18 2007
publisher=NICK DENTON,

In July 2006, he formally launched his 289-foot sailing yacht named "The Maltese Falcon" - the world's largest privately owned sailing yacht. [cite web
title=Tom Perkins Thinks Big
month=February | year=2006
publisher=Lisa Gosselin, Yachting Boats
] [cite web
title=Maltese Falcon
publisher=Perini Navy (the yard, that built the ship)
] [cite web
title=The Maltese Falcon

He has houses in California (Belvedere, Marin County) and East Sussex, England. [ [ The World of Business : The Kona Files: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker ] ]

Perkins now (2007) sits on the board of directors of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. [ [ News Corporation ] ]


In January 2006, Perkins published his first romance novel, "Sex and the Single Zillionaire," (ISBN 0-06-085167-8) which he dedicated to Steel. The plot of the book is based on a reality TV idea which was pitched to Perkins, where he would date a series of women and choose one to marry. He claims that "no 'ghost' did the writing." Proceeds from the book will be donated to Harvard University.

In November 2007, Perkins published a memoir, "Valley Boy: The Education of Tom Perkins." (ISBN 1-59-240313-1) Perkins discussed [ the book, his time at HP, and his sailboat with Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes in September 2007.]


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