Update: January 27, 2014, 6:43 PM
Venture Capitalist Tom Perkins recently reached new levels of notoriety for writing a three-paragraph argument comparing Kristallnacht during the Holocaust to liberals’ critique of inequality in the United States.
“Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich,” Perkins, a founding member of the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers, wrote in a letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal on Friday. He later doubled-down on the argument, arguing the “racial discrimination” in Nazi Germany manifested itself as “class demonization.”
Perkins, on Monday, said he regretted using the word Kristallnacht in his Wall Street Journal piece. He cautioned though that he did not regret the message behind the letter to the editor.
Perkins is no stranger to the media spotlight, even in terms of legendary Silicon Valley tycoons. Here are four things to know about the wildly successful entrepreneur:
1. Perkins was actually convicted of involuntary manslaughter in France. He details what happened in his book Valley Boy: The Education of Tom Perkins. In it, he wrote that, while sailing his yacht in France in 1996, he collided with a smaller boat which resulted in the death of a man on board the smaller vessel.
“It was only then that I discovered the name of the drowned man, a prominent physician from Nice, age fifty-three with a wife, a grown daughter, and a son in his late teens,” Perkins wrote.
Perkins and a few others, including the captain of his yacht, were found guilty (“not at all to my surprise”) but he also noted “jail sentences were suspended, and ten thousand-dollar fines assessed.”
2. Perkins is also known for being involved in the ousting of Carly Fiorina from Hewlett Packard. Fiorina accused Perkins of being closely involved in her removal from the company as well as the removal of the late Hewlett Packard Board Chairwoman Patricia Dunn. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Perkins denied Fiorina’s claim but he did admit he lost his temper with Dunn in one meeting.
“I was angry,” he said. “There’s no question but it was 90 minutes of very intense debate. I would say I was more emotional than angry although that’s very much the same thing.”
3. He was married to romance novelist Danielle Steel. His book sales likely fell short of the millionaire writer’s, to whom he was married from 1998 to 2002. In his book, he defended her against her critics, “But the speed makes it tough to avoid some repetition, and the speed makes her vulnerable to critics who crave subtlety and more inner clockwork to the characters’ personalities. But the critics don’t write books that have accrued over six hundred million in sales. She pays them no heed.”
4. Perkins wrote a fiction novel. As The New Republic noted, Sex and the Single Zillionaire features a main character called Steven Hudson, a wealthy widower who is commissioned to star in a reality show where “gold-digging bimbos” vie for his affection.
5. Perkins specifically mentioned Steel in his Wall Street Journal letter to the editor. In Perkins’ book he wrote that Steel plans to one day write a book based on his manslaughter trial.