Thomas “Tom” Perkins—plutocrat, investor, patriot, businessman, innovator, guy once convicted of involuntary manslaughter for ramming a French guy’s small boat with his $130 million, football field-sized yacht and killing him—is dead at 84, the New York Times reports.
Perkins, whose namesake venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has become, you might say, the Harvard of Silicon Valley VC firms (or at LEAST the Cornell), gained notoriety when his enormous metaphor oceanic vehicle was involved in mid-race tragedy. Per the Wall Street Journal:
Taos Brett IV almost cleared Mariette’s bow, avoiding a direct hit. But the schooner’s long bowsprit clipped the rigging on the port side of Taos Brett IV, and began carrying the smaller boat along—and then under Mariette’s bow. The rigging was one of the wires stay that supported Taos Brett IV’s mast and the wire failed to snap. Within two seconds, Taos Brett IV capsized, filled with water and sank. “We didn’t damage his boat—we just sank it,” Perkins recalled.
The doomed sailboat had five sailors aboard, three in the cockpit and two in the cabin who were packing a spinnaker for use in the race. The pair inside had no idea what was happening in the duel between Taos Brett IV and Mariette. One of those people—a fifty-year-old physician from Nice named Jacques Bourry—didn’t make it out alive. Horrified at the collision and Bourry’s drowning, Perkins immediately dropped out of the race, which was soon canceled anyway—as was the regatta itself, for several years, because of the tragedy. Perkins was so shaken he gave the helm over to his captain, Tom Eaton. Forty-five minutes later, after Mariette’s sails had been furled and stowed, Perkins was arrested by armed French authorities and charged with manslaughter
His ship, the Maltese Falcon, was “as long as a football field, forty-two feet wide, twenty feet deep, with three masts each soaring nearly twenty stories toward the heavens...If Darth Vader had an intergalactic yacht built for himself, this is what it would look like.”
Years later, Perkins attempted to revitalize his image by comparing criticism of the 1% to the persecution and slaughter of Jews in Germany during the rise and reign of Nazism. Perkins is survived by the countless software businesses he and his partners have touched in recent decades.