clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Tom Perkins, venture capitalist and Silicon Valley founding father, has died at 84

He co-founded the VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 1972.

Tom Perkins at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2013
Steve Jennings / Getty

Tom Perkins, co-founder of prominent venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has passed away. His longtime assistant, Kathy Daly, confirmed his death in an email to Recode. He was 84.

Perkins co-founded Kleiner Perkins in 1972, after helping to launch Hewlett-Packard's computer division. He served on the boards of a number of technology and media giants, including Compaq, Genentech and News Corp.

Though he hadn't been involved in investing in many years — he hasn't been active with Kleiner Perkins in nearly 30 years — Perkins is credited with helping to "lay the foundations of culture" in the Valley.

In recent years, Perkins became more widely known for his vociferous defenses of America's wealthiest citizens. He warned of a coming "progressive Kristallnacht" against the rich in a January 2014 Wall Street Journal letter to the editor, referencing the 1938 attack on Jews in Nazi Germany. Perkins later apologized for the comparison, but not before the rest of the industry, including his namesake firm, distanced itself from the Silicon Valley patriarch.

Perkins later told Bloomberg's Emily Chang that he sent the Journal the letter because of a San Francisco Chronicle article that poked fun at his ex-wife, the romance novelist Danielle Steel.

That same year, Perkins suggested in another interview that the votes of the 1 percent should count more because they pay more in taxes. During the 2016 election cycle, Perkins backed former HP CEO Carly Fiorina's bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

In a statement provided by Kleiner Perkins co-founders Frank Caufield and Brook Byers, the two praised Perkins's legacy.

As a co-founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Tom was a pioneer in the venture capital industry. He defined what we know of today as entrepreneurial venture capital by going beyond just funding to helping entrepreneurs realize their visions with operating expertise. He was there at the start of the biotech industry and the computer revolution. Tom was our partner and friend, and we will miss him.

In addition to his political extracurricular activities, Perkins was an avid sailor and a major figure in the yachting world. In the mid-1990s, he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in France for killing a man in a boating accident. A decade later, he drew substantial public attention for his $130 million yacht, the Maltese Falcon, which was "bigger, faster, higher-tech, more expensive and riskier than any private sailing craft in the world."

Norma Trease, editor-at-large of Yachting Magazine and someone who knew Perkins through his work in the yachting world, told Recode that "he was known to be good to his crew, and many of them worked for him through several yachts and many years."

Perkins's assistant Daly did not immediately respond to a question about the cause of death.

This article originally appeared on