Tom Perkins: The Captain Of Capitalism

Tells 60 Minutes Correspondent Lesley Stahl He Regrets Quitting HP's Board

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The Maltese Falcon embodies all the grandeur of a 19th century clipper ship. It's also the biggest, fastest, most high-tech sailboat on the high seas, a triumph of science, vision and money.

Asked how much the Falcon cost Perkins, he tells Stahl, "The rule of thumb, Lesley, is that a big yacht costs about a million dollars a meter."

The Maltese Falcon is 88 meters long.

"I know it cost more than $88 million," Stahl remarks. "I've heard about $150 million. But I've also heard $300 million."

"No, not $300 million," Perkins says. "That's too much."

"Why don't, why won't you tell us? You've told us everything else. You don't seem to be embarrassed about everything else?" Stahl says.

"I'm embarrassed about that," Perkins admits.

Asked why, Perkins says, "There's the homeless and charity and there's lots of things you could do with that money that would improve the world, right?"

"Oh, good point. That you bring up yourself?" Stahl asks.

"Yeah," Perkins says. "So, you know, 'How selfish is this guy?' is, I guess, is the criticism. So the answer's pretty selfish, but I'm just not gonna put a number on it."

Why did it have to be the biggest boat?

"Lesley, I could give you some technical reasons on why it really has got to be big to work right. But I just wanted the biggest boat. Let's admit it," he says.

"It's ego," Stahl remarks.

"Do I have an ego? Yes," Perkins admits. "Is it big? Yes."

Whatever it is, he can certainly afford it after making his name and fortune in venture capitalism, which he chronicles in his memoir, "Valley Boy: The Education of Tom Perkins." It is a candid account of his life, his second marriage to romance novelist Danielle Steel, a manslaughter conviction in a boating accident in France, and the deals that made him so wealthy -- starting with the first biotech company, Genentech in San Francisco. He and his partners launched Genentech in 1976 with nothing more than a checkbook and an idea.

"The idea was to trick nature into letting us make something that didn't exist in nature, in particular, human insulin," Perkins explains.

Genentech's success led to new ways of treating everything from diabetes to dwarfism, and to getting rich. Kleiner Perkins' initial investment of $250,000 soared 800-fold, to $200 million.

"That's what venture capitalists are created to do. And you can blame converting the orchards of Silicon Valley into parking lots partly on me and partly on Genentech because we proved that this kind of high risk, high tech venture capital could be an enormous homerun. And everybody wanted to get in on it," he says.