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H. Ross Perot, Computer Industry Pioneer And Former Presidential Candidate, Dies At 89

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H. Ross Perot, Computer Industry Pioneer And Former Presidential Candidate, Dies At 89

Former independent and third-party presidential candidate and computing industry pioneer H. Ross Perot has died.

The self-made billionaire had battled leukemia for months, a family spokesman told The Associated Press. He was 89.

Perot founded early computer data processing company Electronic Data Systems, and in the 1990s made two unsuccessful presidential runs.

Bill Gates Of The 1960s

Texas-born Perot, a Naval Academy graduate, started his career as an IBM (NYSE: IBM) salesman, before borrowing $1,000 from his wife to start EDS in 1962. The company pioneered the computing services industry at a time when companies couldn't manage large amounts of electronic data. The U.S. government gave EDS a lucrative contract to computerize the then-new Medicare system.

Perot became a multimillionaire when EDS went public in 1968.

"Then we watched Dad become the Bill Gates of the '60s,” his son, Ross Perot Jr., told the Dallas Morning News last year.

EDS would be acquired by General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) for $2.5 billion in 1984.

Iran Rescue

In the 1970s, Perot was well known in EDS’ home of Dallas, and on Wall Street, but attracted major national attention after organizing a rescue of two EDS employees who were imprisoned in Iran in the days leading up to the 1979 revolution there. The rescue, which included Iranian revolutionaries storming the prison where the two were held, brought positive press coverage, and were the subject of a book and mini-series in the early 1980s.

Third Party Candidate

In 1992, Perot ran for president as an independent, buying half-hour blocks of TV time for campaign infomercials. Perot finished third to Democrat Bill Clinton and incumbent Republican President George Bush, getting about 19% of the vote, but no electoral votes.

In 1996, Perot tried again, running as a candidate of the Reform Party, which he founded, finishing third again to Clinton and Republican Bob Dole.

Forbes estimated this year Perot’s fortune was about $4 billion.

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Photo credit: USASOC News Service

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