Ross Perot didn't claim to have all the answers when he took a seat on the GM board in 1984. At first he said he just wanted to make sure the data services company he had sold to the automaker was operating at peak efficiency.
"I'm just going to be the guy over here working on computer systems,'' Perot told an Automotive News reporter in early 1985.
I'm not sure anyone believed him.
Perot already had a reputation as the kind of guy who, when he got involved in something, really got involved. Some would have called him a hands-on manager. Others thought of him as a cowboy and a pest.
But reporters loved him. He was his own best PR guy because he always returned phone calls from reporters and would even wait on hold to speak to them.
The plain-talking entrepreneur from Texarkana already was something of a national folk hero for the way he rescued two employees held hostage in Iran in 1979. The story was told in the book On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett.
Perot blew into Detroit after GM paid $2.6 billion to acquire Electronic Data Systems Corp., which Perot had founded in 1962 with $1,000 of family money.