PEROT: An Unauthorized Biography by Todd Mason

PEROT: An Unauthorized Biography

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A journalist's shrewd, unromantic appraisal of an American legend. As Dallas bureau chief for Business Week from 1982 to 1989, Mason could talk with the media-conscious Perot on short notice. Once he informed the founder of Electronic Data Systems of his plans for a biography, however, the author found himself without access. By dint of painstaking research (and a little bit of luck), Mason has nonetheless stitched together an interpretive account of Perot's career, one that takes strong exception to his good-guy image. To illustrate, Mason provides telling detail on the Annapolis grad's go-getting boyhood in Texarkana, his Navy hitch, and his frustrated tenure with IBM. Critically covered as well are the hothouse growth of EDS, its paramilitary corporate culture, and eventual acquisition by General Motors--a transaction that put Perot in direct conflict with the auto maker's inertial bureaucracy and top management. Having banked the $700 million GM paid him to quit its board, he's still jousting with the Motown colossus not only in the marketplace but also in courtrooms and the press. In broad outline, the story of H. (for Henry) Ross Perot is a familiar one, thanks to his spectacular success in business, widely celebrated patriotism, and putative populism. Mason's achievement, then, lies in separating facts from folklore and fancies. Here, Perot is a master manipulator of his own myth, an implacable opponent, and a man who draws strength from being an outsider in the public as well as private sector. Without gainsaying any of his subject's genuine accomplishments, the author offers illuminating perspectives that depict Perot as a control freak who often says one thing while doing another. In support of this view, Mason cites convincing evidence from, among other sources, confidential depositions he obtained ""by mistake"" in the aftermath of a legal action EDS mounted against its former proprietor. There's allure in exposÉs that take the mighty down a peg or two. Mason's warts-and-all portraiture has the additional appeal of a consequential protagonist who--for all his lofty standing in commercial and civic affairs--seems to be suffering from a near-terminal case of hubris.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1990
Publisher: Dow Jones-Irwin