H. Ross Perot’s Real Estate Legacy

The technology magnate and independent presidential candidate started making his mark nearly 40 years ago with the purchase of a 2,700-acre tract.
H. Ross Perot, 1930-2019. Image by Allan Warren via Wikimedia Commons

Though H. Ross Perot became a household name for his two independent presidential campaigns in the 1990s and his success as an early technology magnate, he also had a significant, if less well-known, impact on commercial real estate. The billionaire founder of EDS, who died July 9 at 89, was particularly influential in shaping the metropolitan Dallas office market.

Perot’s role in real estate dates back to the early 1980s, when he acquired 2,655 acres of vacant land in Plano, Texas. By 1985, the site was the headquarters of Electronic Data Systems Corp., the technology company founded by Perot in 1962 and better known as EDS. The entrepreneur’s choice of Plano was influential, and established Plano as a corporate hub. Soon after EDS relocated, Frito-Lay and JC Penney announced plans to relocate to the campus. The center of gravity for development had shifted: In 1998, The Karahan Cos. was selected to build Legacy Town Center, a mixed-use project, on 150 acres of the site.

 

EDS’ former Legacy headquarters in Plano, Texas, now owned by Spear Street Capital. Photo courtesy of Yardi Matrix

Today, the area contains more than 33 million square feet of office space along with multifamily, hospitality and retail assets. Brands represented at the Legacy campus include Toyota, JPMorgan Chase, Toyota, USAA, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., PepsiCo and Capital One. Plano Economic Development, a  city agency, estimates some 60,000 people live and work in the area. The newer Legacy West district comprises 23.4 million square feet, according to Yardi Matrix. The pace of development continues, with another 4.1 million square feet in the pipeline.

Family legacy

The Perot family influence on real estate extends into a second generation. Hillwood, founded in 1988 by Ross Perot Jr., is a top industrial and residential developer-investor. Its track record includes 130 million square feet of industrial space and more than 70 communities in North America and Europe. Hillwood also maintains a significant presence in the metro Dallas office market, with a 850,000-square-foot portfolio and a development pipeline totaling 2.3 million square feet.

H. Ross Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, in 1930. Following graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1953, Perot served in the Navy through 1957, which included a tour of duty during the final days of the Korean War.

Following his Navy service, Perot joined IBM as a data processing salesman, a position he held until 1962. That year, Perot struck out on his own, founding the company known today as EDS. In 1984, General Motors paid $2.4 billion to acquire the firm. In 1988, Perot founded Perot Systems Corp., which Dell acquired for $3.9 billion in 2009.