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Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Tom Perkins Dies

June 9, 2016, 10:39 PM UTC
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Co-Founder Tom Perkins Portraits
Photo: David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tom Perkins, one of the founders of famed Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, died Thursday night at the age of 84.

Perkins died of natural causes at his home in Tiburon, Calif., near San Francisco, after a prolonged illness, his longtime assistant confirmed to the New York Times.

Perkins helped found one of the best known and successful venture capital firms in Silicon Valley in 1972, when the idea of investing small amounts in risky startups in return for an equity stake was still an unusual arrangement. Eventually, Kleiner Perkins’ investments helped spawn tech giants like Google (now Alphabet), Netscape, AOL, and Amazon. He also helped recruit John Doerr to the firm, who also went on to be a high-profile venture capitalist.

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In later years, Perkins made headlines for more controversial moves. A decade ago, he left Hewlett-Packard’s board after he discovering it had secretly obtained his phone records and those of journalists as part of an investigation into a board leak. The board was eventually overhauled because of the incident.

In 2014, Perkins again made headlines when he wrote a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal in which he compared growing dislike for the wealthy, or “1%,” to the Jewish Holocaust. Perkins later admitted that the comparison might have been too strong, but still maintained that there was growing animosity against the wealthy, even as Kleiner Perkins distanced itself from him and his comments.

“I wouldn’t say taxation is a form of persecution,” he said during an on-stage interview that year with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky. “But the extreme progressivism of the tax system is.”

Brook Byers and Frank Caufield, fellow Kleiner Perkins co-founders, said in a statement that Perkins “defined what we know of today as entrepreneurial venture capital by going beyond just funding to helping entrepreneurs realize their visions with operating expertise,” according to the Times.