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Supercharged car collector Tom Perkins dies

2016 23-H Tom Perkins Obit

Photo taken by Old Cars Weekly at a 1982 German auto show is of Tom Perkins (left) with Dr. Lonnie Hammargren. Perkins was already collecting 2-seat supercharged cars and had been involved in attempts to buy Harrah’s Auto Collection after Bill Harrah’s death. Hammagren was a brain surgeon who collected auto oddities. He later became a politician and Lt. Governor of Nevada.

Thomas James “Tom” Perkins, the creator of a significant car collection and founding partner of legendary venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers, died on June 7 at age 84 following a lengthy illness. Perkins was born Jan. 7, 1932. His death was reported in Recode and The New York Times.

Perkins put together a collection of classic supercharged cars including a Mercedes 500 K, a Bugatti Atlantic Type 57, an Alfa Romeo 2900 and a Duesenberg SJ. He also owned a Type 55 Bugatti, a Buccialli TAV 12, a Hispano-Suiza and a Squire X101. He published a book (now out of print) documenting his world-class collection and impressions of driving his cars. Perkins later sold parts of the collection to clothing designer Ralph Lauren.

Perkins wrote an autobiography in which he said he sold the entire collection because he felt the Japanese stock market was about to crash. He mistakenly thought this would cause the value of collector cars to drop worldwide as bankrupt Japanese collectors dumped their collections on the market.

Perkins received an engineering degree from MIT and Masters of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in the 1950s. In 1963, he as recruited by Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett to head their first R&D facility. He founded University Laboratories (UL), a laser company that merged with Spectra-Physics. Its success led to forming the venture-capital firm with Eugene Kleiner.

Dubbed the “Father of Silicone Valley, Perkins co-founded the venture-capital firm in 1972 and made profits on companies like biotech pioneer Genentech. Perkins later returned to HP and played a role in the firing Carly Fiorina. In 2014, Perkins was worth was estimated at about $8 billion.

Perkins had two children, with his first wife, the late Gerd Thune-Ellefsen. After she died in 1994, he married romance novelist Danielle Steel whose book The Klone and I was about their friendship. They separated in August 1999 and were later divorced. In 1996, Perkins was convicted in France of involuntary manslaughter arising from a yacht-racing collision and was fined $10,000. He was also the subject of a 2007 60 Minutes special titled "Captain of Capitalism."

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