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How Ross Perot befriended Steve Jobs and helped bring us the iPhone

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Most of us will best remember Ross Perot, who died on Tuesday at 89, for his idiosyncratic runs for the presidency in 1992 and 1996. But the career of the Dallas billionaire, who made his fortune by founding computer automation company Electronic Data Systems in 1962, is full of fascinating sidelights. One of them is his friendship with Steve Jobs and his investment in Jobs’s second startup, NeXT—the company whose technology eventually played a defining role in making Apple the 21st century’s most iconic business success story.

In 1986, Perot watched a PBS documentary, Entrepreneurs, which featured Jobs and NeXT. He was impressed. He was also still smarting from having failed to invest in Microsoft back in 1979, when Bill Gates had approached him about buying a stake in the then-tiny software maker.

Perot put $20 million into NeXT and received 16% of the company and a board seat in return. He told the New York Times that it was the safest bet he’d made in a........

© Fast Company