Ross Perot

NET WORTH: $4.1 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder of Electronic Data Systems, Founder of Perot Systems

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Veterans, Arts and Culture, Dallas Community, Real Estate

OVERVIEW: Perot started the Perot Foundation in 1969. Since then, the foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to a number of causes, primarily in Texas. He's a strong advocate of education, and is one of the first public figures in Texas to link education and economic viability.

BACKGROUND: While most people know Ross Perot as a businessman, former presidential candidate, and quite possibly one of the most imitated men on the planet, he's also a tech pioneer. He grew up in Texarkana, Texas, where he was an Eagle Scout and attended junior college before joining the Navy. After finishing his commission, he went to work at IBM before leaving to start his own computer firm, Electronic Data Systems Leasing Corporation (EDS), which specialized in data processing systems and services. In 1965, Perot's fortune began to rise when EDS secured government contracts working on systems for Medicare and Medicaid. In 1968, EDS went public, making Perot a millionaire. In 1984, General Motors bought a controlling interest in EDS for $2.5 billion. Perot hated his new partners, and he was very vocal in his condemnation of GM until he sold his remaining shares to the company in 1986. Two years later, he started Perot Systems, another computer services company, where he repeated the same formula that had made EDS successful. By 2009, the company, which also made its money through state and federal government contracts to computerize welfare and support payment systems, had 23,000 employees and was sold to computer manufacturer Dell, Inc. for $3.9 billion. 

PHILOSOPHY: Perot is well known for his political philosophy, which propelled his Presidential runs in the 90's, where he campaigned on his business acumen, advocating for limited government and balanced budgets. His philanthropic philosophy is less well known, but for more than 20 years, Perot refused to take a tax deduction for his charitable contributions, based on his belief that he owed his wealth to his country. 

ISSUES:

POW & VETERANS AFFAIRS: Perot got his start in activism and philanthropy during the Vietnam War, when President Nixon enlisted him to help improve the treatment of prisoners of war. In December 1969, Perot spent $1.5 million of his own money to send two cargo planes of food and medical supplies to the POWs. While the Viet Cong refused the delivery, it is believed that the publicity led to improved conditions for POWs. After the POW airlift, he was all over the media, including making an appearance on the Today show and taking out self-congratulatory ads in hundreds of newspapers. After the war, Perot gave a party for some returning POWs and actively recruited war veterans to work for EDS. In 1979, after a couple of EDS employees were thrown in an Iranian prison, he orchestrated a daring but successful rescue using other EDS employees. 

TEXAS COMMUNITY: Though Perot is active in many different philanthropic areas, including health, education, and arts & culture, the vast majority of his giving goes towards organizations that operate in and benefit the Texas community. His major donations include: 

  • $20 million to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to create an Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy and a Center for Targeted Therapy, speeding up genome mapping research to develop better and more personalized cancer treatments
  • $15 million to help build a new symphony hall for the city of Dallas
  • Millions to his church, Highland Memorial Presbyterian.
  • Large donations to Texas schools, and financing a campaign to improve several of the state's school districts. 
  • $50 million to create the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, a children's museum that the Wall Street Journal has referred to as "(a) Disney World for the mind" based on its interactive exhibits, its architecture, and its reasonable admission prices.
  • $1 milion to the Episcopal School of Dallas.
  • $1 million to the Dallas Symphony Association.
  • $1 million to Planned Parenthood in lieu of the state of Texas' decision to transition away from funding the organization.
  • Tens of millions of dollars to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas,  supporting Nobel Prize-winning research

REAL ESTATE: One of The Perot Companies' businesses is real estate. Perot family's real estate development firm started the construction on a nearly 1 million-square-foot spec warehouse in Joliet, the largest such project underway in the Chicago area. Most of this business is managed by Ross Perot Jr., however.

The Perot Foundation also gives out smaller grants, and has distributed more than $40 million to hundreds of charities in a wide variety of fields, including health care, anti-poverty programs, and education charities, in amounts ranging from a few hundred dollars to several million. 

CONTACT:

  • Carolyn Perot Rathjen, Vice President and Executive Director, Perot Foundation, P.O. Box 269014 Plano, TX United States 75026; 972-535-1900

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