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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. 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.[5] In response, Perkins disclosed his reasons publicly, triggering an SEC investigation and significant media interest into HP's leak-finding activities.[6][7]

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

In 1996, Perkins was convicted in France of involuntary manslaughter arising from a yacht-racing collision, forcing him to pay $10,000 fine.[11]

In July 2006, he formally launched his 289-foot sailing yacht named The Maltese Falcon, at the time the world's largest privately owned sailing yacht.[12][13][14] The yacht was listed for sale in 2006 on, the asking price being 99,000,000 with engine hours listed at 1,890 hours.[15] Perkins sold the yacht for £60million in July 2009.[16]

He has houses in Belvedere, Marin County, California,[17] 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.[16]

As of 2007 Perkins sits on the board of directors of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.[18]


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.[10]

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.[19]


  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. ^ "Perkins Letter to HP Board" (PDF).  
  6. ^ Christopher Lawton, Dionne Searcey and Shawn Young (September 7, 2006). "H-P Faces Probe Over Its Inquiry Into Board Leaks". The Wall Street Journal.  
  7. ^ Kaplan, David A. (September 5, 2006). "Intrigue in High Places". Newsweek. Retrieved 2009-08-17.  
  8. ^ "Letter from AT&T to Tom Perkins regarding Pretexting" (PDF). August 11, 2006.  
  9. ^ "HP 8-K Filing Reporting Leak Investigation" (PDF). September 6, 2006.  
  10. ^ a b Pui-Wing Tam and Jeffery A. Trachtenberg (January 14, 2006). "True Romance". The Wall Street Journal. pp. A1.  
  11. ^ "Tom Perkins' manslaughter conviction". NICK DENTON, June 18 2007.  
  12. ^ "Tom Perkins Thinks Big". Lisa Gosselin, Yachting Boats. February 2006.,24579,1155296,00.html.  
  13. ^ "Maltese Falcon". Perini Navy (the yard, that built the ship).  
  14. ^ "The Maltese Falcon". Homepage.  
  15. ^ 2006 Perini Navi Boat For Sale, Details,
  16. ^ a b "£60m floats Tom Perkins' 289ft boat". -Sunday Times. 2009-08-02. Retrieved 2009-08-02.  
  17. ^ The World of Business : The Kona Files: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker
  18. ^ News Corporation
  19. ^ "The Life of Tom Perkins". October 6 2009.  

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