In an exclusive interview, Thomas Perkins , Co-Founder of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, spoke with Bloomberg Television’s Emily Chang. Thomas Perkins apologized for using the word “Kristallnacht” and comparing the treatment of wealthy Americans to persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Highlights from Thomas Perkins include:
*Thomas Perkins SAYS THE CREATIVE 1 PERCENT IS THREATENED
*Thomas Perkins SAYS SOLUTION TO INEQUALITY IS RICH GETTING RICHER
*Thomas Perkins KLEINER PERKINS CHOSE TO `THROW ME UNDER THE BUS’
*Thomas Perkins KLEINER PERKINS HAS DECLINED SINCE I LEFT
*Thomas Perkins KLEINER WOULD HAVE AGREED WITH COMPARISON TO HOLOCAUST
*I HAVE MEMBERS OF MY OWN FAMILY IN TRAILER PARKS
*Thomas Perkins I CERTAINLY HAVE ENOUGH ARROGANCE TO BE ROYAL
*Thomas Perkins I COULD BUY A SIX PACK OF ROLEXES
EMILY CHANG, HOST, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Tom Perkins, founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, joining me now here in the studio. Thomas Perkins, do you regret this comparison?
Thomas Perkins, CO-FOUNDER, KLEINER PERKINS CAUFIELD BYERS: Yes. I – I talked to the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman, this morning following up on a letter I’d sent over the weekend apologizing for the use of the world Kristallnacht. It was a terrible word to have chosen. I, like many, have tried to understand the 20th century and the incomprehensible evil of the Holocaust. It can’t be explained. Even to try to explain it is questionable. It’s wrong. It’s evil.
Now I used the word because during the occupy of San Francisco by the Occupy Wall Street crowd, they broke the windows in the Wells Fargo Bank. They marched up through our automobile strip on Venice Avenue and broke all the windows in all the luxury car dealerships. And I saw that. I remembered that the police just stood by frozen. And I thought, well, this is how Kristallnacht began. So that word was in my mind, but I did – I don’t necessarily need to read from this letter, but if you’re interested I can.
CHANG: Sure. Go ahead.
Thomas Perkins: Well, I deeply apologize – this is the letter I wrote to the Anti-Defamation League. I deeply apologize to you and any who have mistaken my reference to Kristallnacht as a sign of overt or latent anti-semitism. This is not the case. My late partner Eugene Kleiner fled Hitler from Austria and fought in the US Army. We became the deepest of friends during our long association and he taught me, “Never imagine that the unimaginable cannot become real.”
He was never comfortable with the extreme political currents in America and never took our freedom from demonization for granted. I believe that he would have understood my Wall Street Journal letter and would have agreed with the warning. And then I apologized for using Kristallnacht, as I just said before. And I had a pleasant discussion with Abe Foxman just before I came here. And I hope that at least that part is put to rest.
CHANG: So more than 90 Jews were killed in Kristallnacht, 30,000 people put in concentration camps. What were you going for (inaudible) analogy?
Thomas Perkins: I – the Jews were only 1 percent of the German population. Most Germans had never met a Jew, and yet Hitler was able to demonize the Jews and Kristallnacht was one of the earlier manifestations, but there had been others before it. And then of course we know about the evil of the Holocaust. I guess my point was that when you start to use hatred against a minority, it can get out of control. I think that was my thought. And now that as the messenger I’ve been thoroughly killed by everybody, at least read the message.
CHANG: You mentioned the word hatred. Do you feel threatened?
Thomas Perkins: I don’t feel personally threatened, but I think that a very important part of American, namely the creative 1 percent, are threatened. I’ve – I’m friends with Al Gore, who tells me that the inequality is the number-one problem in America. I’m friends with Jerry Brown. I voted for him. I will vote for him, even though he raised my taxes 30 percent. He tells me the number-one problem in America is inequality, and that’s probably and possibly true. And I think President Obama’s going to make that point tomorrow night. But the 1 percent are not causing the inequality. They are the job creators. Silicon Valley is – I think Kleiner Perkins itself over the years has created pretty close to a million jobs and we’re still doing it. It’s absurd to demonize the rich for being rich and for doing what the rich do, which is get richer by creating opportunity for others.
CHANG: How do you feel threatened?
Thomas Perkins: I said I didn’t feel personally threatened. I feel however that as a class I think we are beginning to engage in class warfare. I think the rich as a class are threatened through higher taxes, higher regulation and so forth. And so that is my message.
CHANG: If this is the kind of persecution that is happening to the 1 percent, what’s happening to the 99 percent?
Thomas Perkins: I think the 99 percent – I – I did not come originally from the 1 percent. I grew up as one of the 99 percenters. And so I’m your classical self-made man, if you will. I think the 99 percent is struggling and really struggling to get along in America. We have ever-increasing regulation, higher costs I think caused by more government than we need. Small businesses – it’s difficult to form and prosper in a small business these days. It’s difficult to hire. And that in my view is what is hurting and causing – hurting the 99 percent and causing the inequality. So I think that the solution is less interference, lower taxes. Let the rich do what the rich do, which is get richer. But along the way, they bring everybody else with them when the system is working.
CHANG: Now you are a multi-millionaire.
Thomas Perkins: No, I’m not a billionaire.
CHANG: You’re not a billionaire. I said multi-millionaire.
Thomas Perkins: I’ve created some billionaires, but I unfortunately am not one.
CHANG: You have owned fancy yachts, fancy cars, an underwater submersible.
Thomas Perkins: Airplane. Underwater airplane.
CHANG: I saw it. It’s basically an airplane that flies under water. Do you worry at all that you are divorced from reality? Are you divorced from reality?
Thomas Perkins: I don’t know if anybody can answer that. Truthfully, I don’t think so. I give and have given and will give millions and millions of dollars to a long list of charities. I have in mind some more chairs at universities (inaudible). I still want to leave my children something that they can have even though upon my death the government will take about 45 percent. So yeah, I think I’m connected to reality. I’ve got lots and lots of friends that are younger and in this whole web-based, Twitter-based world. And I think I know what they’re thinking and talking about, yes.
CHANG: What about Silicon Valley? Is Silicon Valley to a certain extent divorced from reality? You have kids – you mentioned you created billionaires. You have kids making six-figure salaries, getting free perks at technology