Tom Perkins, the founding partner of legendary Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins, has died at 84

Tom Perkins

Bloomberg TV

Tom Perkins

Tom Perkins, the founding partner of legendary firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has died at 84, Recode and the New York Times reported.

Perkins died Tuesday night after a prolonged illness, according to the reports.

Often called the "Father of Silicon Valley", Perkins cofounded the venture capital firm in 1972 and made big bets on companies like Genentech. Advertisement

He's also known for stirring up controversy. He left the firm in 2014 after he wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that compared the war on the 1% to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, warning of a coming "progressive Kristallnacht".

Perkins got an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School in the 1950s. In 1963 he was recruited by Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett to lead HP's first R&D facility.

While at HP, he started his own laser company called University Laboratories (UL)and guided that through a merger with Spectra-Physics. He then served on the board at Spectra-Physics, which became a leading laser company. This gave him the cash to start his own venture capital firm with partner Eugene Kleiner: Kleiner Perkins.

Perkins and Kleiner helped invent today's tech VC model by taking an active role in the companies they managed rather than being silent investors.Perkins later returned to HP and served on the board twice. In 2005, Perkins was at the center of Carly Fiorina, a former Republican presidential candidate, when she was ousted from HP. He was also embroiled in a battle with Pattie Dunn, the then-chairwoman of the board, before resigning in a "cold fury" in May 2006. Advertisement

Outside of his interests in tech, Perkins was known for leading a lavish lifestyle. In 1996, Perkins was convicted by a French court of involuntary manslaughter after killing a man in a boating accident. His sailing drew headlines again after Perkins created the Maltese Falcon, a $130 million super yacht. He sold the boat in 2009.

In a statement given to Recode by KPCB's cofounders, Frank Caufield and Brook Byers, the pair lauded Perkins' legacy on the venture capital industry.

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.
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