Ross Perot's business legacy reshaped North Texas

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Ross Perot outside EDS building in Dallas, 1960s | | Courtesy:

He ran for president twice, but Ross Perot’s biggest impact for most in North Texas is the two businesses he started during a storied career.

Using $1,000 from his wife's teacher savings account, the computer salesman left IBM in 1962 and launched Electronic Data Systems - EDS - a company that would become a global powerhouse in data services and information technology.

“Ross himself was very focused on quality of people and team,” said Morton Myerson, who joined EDS in 1966 and became its president in 1979.

It wasn't the company's business model, Meyerson says, that made it so successful. It was Perot's insistence on recruiting top level talent.

“In the same way that Special Forces are generally considered to be elite… and I think that's how EDS saw itself. EDS saw itself as the Special Forces of the technology world,” Meyerson said.

He says Perot empowered him and others to chart the company's course, with innovative concepts like a first-of-its kind information system for health care services.

EDS was acquired by general motors in 1984 for $2.5 billion -- a transaction that turned contentious for Perot, who left GM and EDS in 1986.

“He had tremendous tenacity, but it was combined with great vision,” said Tom Luce, Perot's longtime business and personal attorney.

Two years after leaving EDS, Perot and his son Ross Perot, Jr., launched Perot Systems with the help former EDS specialists. The company grew to 23,000 employees before it was bought by Dell Incorporated in 2009 for nearly $4 billion.

“He could be irritating, demanding, driven, but generous, loving, he was a big figure,” Luce said.

Still listed by Forbes magazine as one of the world's 500 wealthiest billionaires, Perot continued working through illness in his final months at Perot headquarters in Uptown Dallas.

Meyerson noted that no matter how successful he was in business, Perot never lost sight of what mattered most.

“His family orientation, personally and in his encouragement of family orientation in the company, was a powerful force,” Meyerson said.

Perot died at 89 in his Dallas home on Tuesday morning surrounded by his family after a short battle with leukemia.