Armed with an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School and an MBA from NYU, Perry put in his Wall Street dues at Goldman Sachs, working on the equity proprietary trading desk under Bob Rubin, the same group that also launched such hedge fund superstars as Dan Och, Eddie Lampert, Dinakar Singh and Eric Mindich. After soliciting the advice of his uncle, Jimmy Cayne—his mother, Merel, is Jimmy's sister—Perry left Goldman and in September 1988 went out on his own equipped with $50 million in capital, focusing on risk arbitrage and distressed debt. Like many of his peers, he's since branched out into private equity and today Perry Capital has $14 billion under management and employs 150 people at offices in New York, London and Hong Kong. The firm boasts an average annual return of 15.4 percent.
Although he started off focused on merger arbitrage, he's broadened the firm's focus to include buyouts as well. In the mid-'90s, he acquired the flower company FTD and installed Meg Whitman as CEO; she revived the brand and returned it to profitability before leaving for Ebay. (Perry sold the company in 2004, collecting $450 million on his initial $20 million investment.) In 2003, he followed old pal Eddie Lampert into Kmart, taking a substantial stake in the company and a seat on the board. (There's a giant glossy photo of a Kmart aisle when you walk into Perry Capital's office.) In recent years, Perry has stepped out of the shadows a bit, dabbling in higher-profile entertainment deals. He backed Harvey and Bob Weinstein when they set up their own movie studio; more recently Perry teamed up with the duo on Ovation TV, the arts cable channel in which he owns a sizeable stake. He also earned press for teaming up with Dan Och and Citadel's Ken Griffin to finance the takeover of English soccer club Manchester United by Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer.
But there are less glamorous items on his plate, too. Perry Capital moved into middle-market commercial financing following the acquisition of the Florida-based firm Capital Factors in 2005. The fund also made big bets on railroad transportation in 2007, taking home sizeable returns from investments in Burlington North Santa Fe and Union Pacific. One deal that didn't go down very smoothly was the significant position Perry took in King Pharmaceuticals in 2004. He ended up in a messy brawl with Carl Icahn, which incurred an SEC investigation and a $1 billion lawsuit by Icahn. The suit was later dropped.
Perry is estimated to have taken home $300-$350 million in 2007, according to Trader Monthly.
Perry is on the board of Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone, the Allen Stevenson School, Milton Academy, Facing History and Ourselves, and the University of Pennsylvania, along with Bill Mack, William Lauder, and Ron Perelman, among others.
Like friend (and fellow financier) Alan Patricof, Perry is a committed Dem. He's donated more than $1 million to the party in the last few years. It's also safe to say that he and his wife are close to the Clintons: Two large Chuck Close portraits of Hillary Clinton hang in their apartment.
His wife, Lisa Perry (née Lisa Rachel Newberger), is an actress turned fashion designer. She oversees a 1960s-inspired line that bears her name. The Perrys have two children, including a young son and a teenage daughter named Samantha. The Perrys live in a 17-room penthouse at 1 Sutton Place that they purchased for $10.9 million in 2000. (The home's previous owners include Winston Churchill Guest and wife C. Z. Guest and the Annenberg family.) Redesigned by Tony Ingrao and David Piscuskas, the apartment features white lacquer walls, white marble floors and the couple's extensive collection of pop art. (Ten pages of photos of their renovated apartment appeared in Vogue in 2002.) They also have an Ingrao/Piscuscas-designed home on the waterfront in Sag Harbor that features an exercise pool in the dining room.
Perry owns a 1997 Gulfstream IV, which he keeps parked at Teterboro, and has a chauffeured Bentley to take him back and forth to the airport.