Thomas Perkins (businessman)

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Thomas James Perkins
Alma materMIT (BS)
Harvard University (MBA)
OccupationVenture Capitalist
Known forCo Founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Spouse(s)Danielle Steel (1998-2002; divorced)
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Thomas James Perkins
Alma materMIT (BS)
Harvard University (MBA)
OccupationVenture Capitalist
Known forCo Founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Spouse(s)Danielle Steel (1998-2002; divorced)

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.[1] While attending MIT, Perkins 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, he founded Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the first Sand Hill Road venture capital firms. Later, Frank Caufield and Brook Byers joined the firm, eventually becoming named partners. Perkins served as a director of Applied Materials, Compaq, Corning Glass, Genentech, Hewlett-Packard, and Philips Electronics.[2] 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.[3]

During the HP/Compaq merger fight in 2001, Perkins was a member of the Compaq board and an outspoken supporter of the merger.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] In response, Perkins disclosed his reasons publicly, triggering an SEC investigation and significant media interest into HP's leak-finding activities.[7][8]

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.[9] HP confirmed that the investigative firm they hired used pretexting to obtain information on the call records of the directors.[10] 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.

News Corp. board

As of 2007 Perkins sits on the board of directors of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation,[11] where he serves with Viet D. Dinh. Dinh represented Perkins in the HP board affair. In July, 2011, Dinh and fellow News Corp. board member Joel Klein took over the investigation of the News of the World phone hacking affair and related Corporation issues.[12] One business commentator, noting Perkins' prior experience with phone-hacking in the HP scandal, speculated that Perkins "may be [was the] best hope" as News Corp. sought to work out of its phone-hacking scandal.[13] Perkins did not stand for reelection to the News Corp board for the fiscal year of 2012.

Personal life

Perkins has 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.[14]

In 1996, Perkins was convicted in France of involuntary manslaughter arising from a yacht-racing collision, forcing him to pay a $10,000 fine.[15]

In July 2006, he formally launched his 289-foot sailing yacht named The Maltese Falcon, at the time, and still, the world's largest privately owned sailing yacht.[16][17][18] The yacht was listed for sale in 2006 on, the asking price being 99,000,000 with engine hours listed at 1,890 hours.[19] Perkins sold the yacht for £60million in July 2009.[20]

He has houses in Belvedere, Marin County, California,[21] and spends about two months a year at Plumpton Place, his Elizabethan mansion in East Sussex, England, which once belonged to the Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.[20]

Perkins was featured in the documentary film Something Ventured which premiered in 2011.

He was made a Ritter (knight) of the Kingdom of Norway in 2000, in appreciation of earlier philanthropic contributions.


In 1984, Perkins wrote and published a first hand account on the World Class collection of his pre-WWII classic car collection, titled Classic SUPERCHARGED Sports Cars (ISBN 0-9612268-0-3). This is a personal account of the handling and "simultaneously exciting and exasperating" characteristics of his collection of supercharged Bugattis, Mercedes, Alfas, one Squire, and his Duesenberg Type SJ.

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.[14]

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.[22]

An account of Perkins' building of The Maltese FalconMine's Bigger: The Extraordinary Tale of the World's Greatest Sailboat and the Silicon Valley Tycoon Who Built It by Newsweek's David A. Kaplan – was published in 2007.[23] The book in 2008 won the Gerald Loeb Award for best business book of the year.[24]

In 2010 he purchased the penthouse atop the Millennium Tower on Mission St in San Francisco's financial district.

In 2011 Perkins acquired a Japanese fisheries training vessell, and had it converted into an "adventure" yacht named "Dr. No" which is used to carry a "Deep Flight" submarine, manufactured by Hawkes Ocean Technologies, of Richmond California. The boat has a web site which carries a link to a video documenting encounters with Humpback whales at depth in Tonga---believed to be the first such encounter.


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ "KPCB Biography of Tom Perkins". Retrieved 2006-05-14.
  3. ^ "Tom Perkins to Give Aspen Chairman's Address". August 1, 2005.
  4. ^ Matt Marshall (December 23, 2001). "Venture Capitalist Pushes Hewlett-Packard-Compaq Merger". San Jose Mercury News.
  5. ^ The comprehensive story of HP spying scandal along with critical discussion on involving corporate governance and ethical issues is available at Davani, Faraz (2011-08-14). "HP Pretexting Scandal by Faraz Davani". Scribd. Retrieved 2011-08-15.
  6. ^ "Perkins Letter to HP Board" (PDF). The Wall Street Journal.
  7. ^ Christopher Lawton, Dionne Searcey and Shawn Young (September 7, 2006). "H-P Faces Probe Over Its Inquiry Into Board Leaks". The Wall Street Journal.
  8. ^ Kaplan, David A. (September 5, 2006). "Intrigue in High Places". Newsweek. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
  9. ^ "Letter from AT&T to Tom Perkins regarding Pretexting" (PDF). The Wall Street Journal. August 11, 2006.
  10. ^ "HP 8-K Filing Reporting Leak Investigation" (PDF). The Wall Street Journal. September 6, 2006.
  11. ^ News Corporation
  12. ^ Doward, Jamie, Toby Helm, et al., "Phone-hacking scandal: is this the tipping point for Murdoch's empire?", The Guardian, 9 July 2011 23.11 BST. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
  13. ^ Goldfarb, Jeffrey, "Tech guru may be best hope for News Corp holders", Reuters Breakingviews, July 11, 2011 16:25 EDT. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
  14. ^ a b Pui-Wing Tam and Jeffery A. Trachtenberg (January 14, 2006). "True Romance". The Wall Street Journal. pp. A1.
  15. ^ "Tom Perkins' manslaughter conviction". Nick Denton, June 18, 2007.
  16. ^ "Tom Perkins Thinks Big". Lisa Gosselin, Yachting Boats. February 2006.,24579,1155296,00.html.
  17. ^ "Maltese Falcon". Perini Navy (the yard, that built the ship).
  18. ^ "The Maltese Falcon". Homepage.
  19. ^ 2006 Perini Navi Boat For Sale, Details,
  20. ^ a b Smith, Emma (2009-08-02). "£60m floats Tom Perkins' 289ft boat". London: -Sunday Times. Retrieved 2009-08-02.
  21. ^ The World of Business : The Kona Files: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker
  22. ^ "The Life of Tom Perkins". October 6, 2009.
  23. ^ ISBN 978-0-06-137402-9
  24. ^ "Gerald Loeb Awards | UCLA Anderson School of Management". 2011-02-07. Retrieved 2011-03-16.