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A Foray Into Politics, Now Back to Business for Perot? : Career: He's eager to return to world of commerce, but it may not be so easy to recapture his former life.

July 17, 1992|TOM FURLONG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With Ross Perot's brief fling at Presidential politics behind him, the computer tycoon is expected to return to his guarded inner sanctum in a north Dallas high-rise that is the command center of his multibillion-dollar empire.

"Now he can go back to what he does best--making money," said Steve McElroy, a business partner of Perot's in Austin, Tex.

At his Dallas news conference Thursday, Perot indicated that he was eager to return to the world of commerce, where he has been so successful. Asked about future plans, Perot replied simply: "I'm going to work."

Dallas investor Tom Marquez said he expects Perot's business interests--primarily computer services, real estate and new technology--to remain the same. "I don't see any reason why he would change," said Marquez, a longtime friend of Perot's.

Given Perot's long shadow on the national political stage in recent months, though, he may not find it so easy to recapture his former life. His every business move is likely to be scrutinized now--at least for a while.

"The ground rules of being Ross Perot have changed," observed attorney Hayes C. McClerkin, another longtime friend. "Any anonymity that he may have had has been lost."

McElroy expects Perot's Dallas office will soon resume the hectic pace for which it was known before Perot plunged into politics. "When he's in the office, he gets updates (from his staff) all day long," McElroy said. "He wants to know everything that's going on."

Perot's office overlooks the headquarters of Electronic Data Systems, the computer services firm he founded 30 years ago. He sold EDS in 1984 to General Motors for $2.5 billion and later founded Perot Systems as a competitor to EDS. (Perot Systems, though, is now run from its headquarters in suburban Washington.)

Perot's businesses in Dallas are run by a group of loyalists who compete fiercely for their boss's attention. A key figure in this crew is Ross Perot Jr., 33, his only son and a man Perot calls his "best friend."

The Perots have emerged as leading real estate developers in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area in the last 10 years. With his son as the point man, Perot helped build a controversial $250-million airport in Ft. Worth that opened in 1989.

An active venture capitalist, Perot also likes to invest in young companies with specialties in communications, computers and health care, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Perot is also trying to build for-profit toll roads, including one in Orange County, in partnership with a suburban Dallas company know as Greiner Engineering. He sold his oil company, Petrus Oil, several years ago.

With their deep pockets and a public-interest bent, the Perots are eager partners in public projects where they stand to gain financially. "They really want to solve (public) problems and make money doing it," said Robert Costello, Greiner's chief financial officer.

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