By 1962, Ross Perot had become a huge name in the world of tech by founding Electronic Data Systems, a company that was later to become a division of Hewlett Packard.
EDS supplied computer systems to corporations and government departments and Mr. Perot enjoyed great success after investing an initial $1000 in his new venture.
By the 1970’s however, there was another burgeoning tech firm on the rise – a company that also had humble roots via a $1500 initial investment. The company in question was none other than the once ubiquitous, then seemingly directionless and soon-to-be ubiquitous again – Microsoft Computers.
Then employing less than 30 staff, Microsoft was a rag-tag army of wide-eyed computer nerds that were developing the technology and software that would enable Perot to rapidly expand his foray into the corporate world.
Headed up by a tall and gangly kid named Bill Gates, Mr. Perot invited Microsoft to his offices to discuss a potential deal that would enable EDS to consolidate their position in the computer industry.
In their 1993 Bill Gates biography, Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews interviewed Mr. Perot who said of the scruffily dressed computer geek, “[He] was absolutely on the right track with what he was doing. And we were really impressed with the people he had working with him and his ability to get the people working with him to work to the outer limits of their capability.”
Bill Gates himself had an equally positive outlook with regards to the meeting and said, “We thought, ‘Hey, these guys can help take micros into these big corporations.’ ”
The negotiation subsequently broke down as the discussion developed about an asking price with Ross Perot stating that Gates’ figure was something in the region of $40 – $60 million. Gates himself recalls setting a selling price between $6 – $15 million and had no intention of selling the company for the amount Mr. Perot was offering.
Neither party made a counter offer for the deal and Mr. Perot missed out on the chance to buy the soon-to-be legendary Microsoft in 1979.
Ross Perot later said of the failed negotiation, “I consider it one of the biggest business mistakes I’ve ever made. My satisfaction wouldn’t be in all the money I’d made. It’d be in the day-to-day contact with Bill and the people at Microsoft in watching them do it. That would have been a hell of a seat, right?”
Having enjoyed revenues in 2016 of $85.32 billion, it’s fair to say that an opportunity may indeed have been missed by Mr. Perot to be involved in Microsoft’s leading role in the computer revolution.
Not to be flummoxed however, Ross Perot can still include the sale of EDS to General Motors for $3 billion in the mid 1980’s and helping Steve Jobs launch his NexT Computers project as being among his list of credits; although if you were him you’d have to wonder what could have been if you’d reached just a little deeper into what were already extremely deep pockets.
Oh well Mr. Perot – if we ever sell The W1nners’ Club you’ll be the first to get a call.