Former presidential hopeful and billionaire philanthropist Ross Perot has died aged 89 after a five-month battle with cancer, his family says.
“Ross Perot, the ground-breaking businessman and loving husband, brother, father and grandfather, passed away early Tuesday at his home in Dallas, surrounded by his devoted family,” the Perot family said in a statement.
Mr Perot rattled US politics by running as an outsider for president twice in the 1990s and toying with the idea in 2016.
The feisty Texas technology billionaire won 19 per cent of the popular vote in 1992’s presidential election – the highest share ever won by a candidate outside of the two major parties since 1912.
He struck a chord with disgruntled Americans turned off by the Republican and Democratic parties, spending $63.5 million of his own money on 30-minute infomercials which would illustrate his economic plans using charts and graphs.
His overarching issue was curbing the government’s deficit spending – an issue he referred to as the “crazy aunt in the basement” who no one wanted to talk about.
With his charts, self-deprecating humour and down-home economic remedies, Mr Perot led a Gallup Poll five months before the election with 39 per cent, compared with 31 per cent for incumbent Republican George HW Bush and 25 per cent for Democrat Bill Clinton.
“Texas and America have lost a strong patriot. Ross Perot epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American creed,” former President George W. Bush said in a statement.
Mr Perot, who was born in 1930 during the Great Depression, amassed a fortune recently estimated by Forbes magazine at $US4.1 billion ($A5.9 billion).
He worked as a computer salesman at IBM during the 1960s before venturing out on his own with $1,000 he had saved from selling computers and his wife’s salary as a teacher.
After realising many of his clients didn’t know how to use the computers he was selling them, Mr Perot founded the Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and later Perot Systems, which helped other companies manage their computer networks.
In 1984, Perot sold EDS to General Motors Corp and it was later sold to Hewlett-Packard Co. He retired as CEO of Perot Systems in 2000, and was succeeded by his son, Ross Perot Jr.
His success in business made him accustomed to getting his way.
He was short with buzz-top haircut, spoke with a folksy Texas drawl and had protruding ears that even he joked about.
Mr Perot was so gung-ho that when two of his employees were jailed in Iran in 1978, he organised a team of commandos from his employees and hired a former Green Beret colonel to break them out.
He is survived by his wife, Margot, whom he met after entering the US Naval Academy in 1949 – they were married for 62 years – and three daughters.