Ross Perot died last week.
He showed up in Detroit like a whirlwind, somewhat typical of his life. He was one of the original disrupters, and he seemed to relish the role.
He became a part of General Motors overnight through GM's 1984 purchase of Electronic Data Systems. Somehow he and GM CEO Roger Smith — a couple of very unlikely people — became fast friends, at least for a short time.
Perot was a breath of fresh air when he arrived at GM. He became an owner and a major shareholder with little or no fanfare.
All of a sudden Perot and his EDS had become a large part of GM's portfolio. Here was a guy with all sorts of stories, and everyone was wondering just what was going to happen at GM. But it did not take too long before Perot and Smith started to clash.
Perot did not find the deliberate style of GM the least bit compatible with him or EDS. His whole life was spent charging into situations and solving whatever challenges faced him. To say that he was successful was an understatement. He had lots of charm and even more quaint phrases. Many loved his down-home style, and he either made you a friend or simply drove you crazy.
It did not take long before GM and Perot realized that theirs was not a marriage made in heaven, and they went their separate ways long before GM could be turned around.
Even with Perot's energy, GM was about as nimble as an aircraft carrier. In spite of GM's challenges, Perot was a heroic figure around the world. His many accomplishments were nothing short of amazing and — outside of his campaigns for president — there did not seem to be anything he could not achieve.
Perot had a large and successful career and will always be considered a true American hero.
EDS was an important part of his legacy, even if it was not his most successful moment.