Kleiner Perkins Co-Founder Comments on Nazis Draw Ire of Peers

Jan 27, 2014 12:01 am ET

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Venture capital pioneer Tom Perkins is taking heat from the firm he co-founded and Silicon Valley peers alike after comparing today’s treatment of wealthy Americans to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Perkins, 82, wrote in a three-paragraph letter in the Jan. 25 Wall Street Journal that resentment of the very rich in the U.S. amounts to a “progressive war on the American one percent” paralleling attacks on Jews in the 1930s. Perkins, who co-founded Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 1972, said the “Occupy movement,” outrage about Google Inc.’s busing of employees from San Francisco to Silicon Valley and the anger over rising real estate prices represents a “very dangerous drift in our American thinking.”

Kleiner Perkins distanced itself from the co-founder, whose views also put him at odds with the venture-capital community he helped create. Marc Andreessen and Will Porteous are among the modern peers who criticized Perkins’s comments.

“Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB for years,” the Menlo Park, California-based firm wrote in a Twitter Inc. message. “We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree.”

Kleiner Perkins’s website lists Perkins as one of 14 partner emeriti, a group that includes recent partner Ray Lane and co-founder Eugene Kleiner, who died in 2003. Perkins has been a director at companies including Hewlett-Packard Co. and Applied Materials Inc.

“Maybe it’s time for KP to shorter its name to K?” wrote Mark Suster, a partner for Upfront Ventures in Los Angeles, on the Twitter microblogging service.

Venture Capitalists

Andreessen, the 42-year-old co-founder of Menlo Park neighbor Andreessen Horowitz, took to Twitter to “express my extreme displeasure with Tom Perkins.”

Porteous, a partner of New York-based RRE Partners, said he was “deeply offended” by Perkins’s comments and that “there’s no one in our industry who would agree with him.”

After the dustup, Perkins said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News that he was “shocked” at the actions of the Occupy movement, referring to the 2011 protests that began in New York led by the group Occupy Wall Street. Demonstrators in San Francisco broke windows at luxury car dealerships and at Wells Fargo & Co., yet the press “focuses its wrath on the 1 percent,” he wrote.

Drifting Apart

“In the Nazi area it was racial demonization, now it is class demonization,” Perkins wrote in the e-mail.

As for his former firm’s reaction to his comments in the Wall Street Journal, Perkins said “our philosophies and strategies have drifted so far apart that now my name means little on the door.”

Christina Lee, a spokeswoman for Kleiner Perkins, declined to comment.

Google and other companies that bus workers to campuses south of San Francisco have come under fire for crowding the city’s streets and contributing to surging home prices that have forced less affluent residents to leave. Protesters in Oakland last month smashed a window on a Google bus.

A group of companies including Google, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Genentech Inc. agreed in December to pay the city of San Francisco a daily fee for the buses to use existing stops as part of a pilot program to cover administrative costs.

--Editors: Kevin Miller, Sylvia Wier, Pui-Wing Tam