Who: Perelman is a legendary financier, corporate raider, and buyout king. He's equally famous for his string of failed marriages and contentious divorces.
Backstory: Born and raised in Philadelphia, Perelman went to work for his father's metals conglomerate after graduating Wharton and marrying his girlfriend, Faith Golding, whose father owned the tony Essex House in Manhattan. At the age of 35, Ron realized his father had no plans to retire and turn the business over to him, so he bolted, borrowing $2 million from his father-in-law to buy a jewelry company and then selling off the company's assets to make a tidy profit.
It's a process Perelman has since repeated on countless occasions. Under the auspices of MacAndrews & Forbes, the candy manufacturer he acquired in 1980 for $45 million, he has spent the last three decades acquiring undervalued or distressed companies—thanks, in the early days, to Michael Milken's junk bonds—and then cutting costs, improving margins, and selling off the assets one by one to the highest bidder. One of the most aggressive—and most notorious—corporate raiders of the 1980s and '90s, Perelman is considerably less active than he used to be, but he remains a towering (and feared) figure in the buyout world.
Of note: Perelman's MacAndrews & Forbes has purchased and sold some 50 companies over the years, including Technicolor, Panavision, Consolidated Cigar, New World, and Pantry Pride. It was Pantry Pride that Perelman used to engineer his most famous acquisition—that of cosmetics manufacturer Revlon—but it's also been one of his bigger career failures: He paid nearly $2 billion for the company in 1985 and it's struggled financially for more than a decade.
It was a series of brash deals in the late '80s that minted Perelman's persona as one of the dominant raiders of the era. He staged aggressive—and ultimately unsuccessful—bids to acquire Gillette and Salomon Bros. In 1989, he snapped up Marvel Comics for $83 million, later losing control of the company when a bitter battle with fellow raider Carl Icahn in the mid-1990s wiped out his stake. In recent years, Perelman has had a good deal more success in the financial services industry. In the late 1980s, he acquired a series of failed savings and loans, which he eventually rolled up into Golden State Bancorp, and sold for $5 billion to Citigroup in 2002, a deal that reportedly earned him a $2 billion profit. Other investments over the years have included a trading card and bubblegum company, a handful of TV companies, a boat manufacturer, and the camping gear maker Coleman. Perelman also controls AM General, the maker of the Humvee. He paid close to $1 billion to acquire a 70 percent in the company in 2004.
Keeping score: According to Forbes, Perelman is worth $11.0 billion, making him the 24th richest person in America and 52nd richest person in the world.
In person: Bald and short (he's 5'7"), Perelman describes himself as a religious Jew and has been known to travel with nine yeshiva students in tow so he can pray with a minyan, the quorum of ten Jewish men required for certain prayers, at all times. Perelman is also known for being intensely security conscious. He's accompanied by two armed bodyguards wherever he goes, and his mammoth townhouse on East 62nd Street—which serves as both his office and residence—is rumored to have one of the most advanced security systems in Manhattan.
Personal: Perelman has five marriages and four divorces to his name. He and his first wife, Faith Golding, who funded Perelman's wheeling and dealing in the early days, divorced in 1983 after she discovered he was having an affair with their florist. (She received $8 million as part of the settlement.) He married his second wife, the late gossip columnist Claudia Cohen, in 1985. She earned an $80 million pay day when they divorced in 1994. Perelman met his third wife, Patricia Duff, while he was still married to Cohen. Following Duff's quickie conversion to Judaism, the couple married in 1994, but split up 18 months later and ultimately divorced in 1997. Perelman married wife No. 4, Ellen Barkin, in 2000 before calling it quits in 2006. The split was his second-nastiest: Perelman had her escorted out his home by his security staff and she later auctioned off the jewelry Perelman had given her for more than $20 million.
In October 2010, Perelman married his fifth wife, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist named Anna Chapman. This time around Perelman wasn't quite as quick to take the plunge: The couple dated for five years before walking down the aisle. They're now said to be expecting a baby via a surrogate.
Perelman has a total of six children. He had four kids with Faith: Hope, Steven, Josh, and Debra. (Perelman has had tense relations with son Josh, whose wedding he didn't attend after Josh refused to have his fiancée sign a pre-nup.) Perelman had his fifth child with Cohen, a daughter named Samantha, who was born in 1989. (She's pictured with her father on the right.) His youngest, Caleigh, was born to Duff in 1994.
Drama: Perelman and Duff's divorce was one of the messiest of the decade and a New York Post and Daily News staple for months. Naturally, the battle was about money: Perelman initially proposed a $30 million settlement, but Duff wasn't satisfied and the couple spent more than $15 million on lawyers as they battled it out in court and in the press, a process that took more than two years. Perelman was portrayed as nasty, controlling and cheap—particularly after he suggested Duff could feed their daughter on a budget of $3 a day; Duff, who argued she needed $4,400 a day to care for their daughter, was portrayed as a gold digger. Perelman eventually prevailed in court and won primary custody of Caleigh, with Duff earning weekend visitation rights. In 2008, the couple returned to court after Caleigh described Duff as "abusive" and asked to live with her father full-time. The case was settled in early December 2008.
Habitat: Once rejected by the co-op board of 820 Fifth Avenue—an episode he's described over the years as a bruising blow to his ego—Perelman occupies two townhouses on East 62nd Street that serve as both his home and office. (The properties are owned by his holding company, M&F.) He also owns lavish compounds in East Hampton and on Harbour Island, in the Bahamas, and spends winter vacations in St. Barths. He gets to his house in the Hamptons via a Sikorsky S-76C helicopter. For longer voyages, he has two private jets—a 2006 Gulfstream G550 and a 1996 Gulfstream G-V—standing at the ready at Teterboro airport in New Jersey.
Pet causes: Perelman is a major donor to Jewish causes, including a number of groups affiliated with the Lubavitch sect, but he regularly writes big checks to arts institutions, too. In the mid-1990s, he donated $20 million to the Guggenheim and in 2007, he handed over $20 million to Carnegie Hall to establish the Ronald O. Perelman Family Stage. He's also made sizable donations to Penn, his alma mater. A $20 million gift several years ago helped build a new student center.
Campaign trail: A longtime political mover-and-shaker, Perelman was a big Republican backer in his younger years. He shifted his support to the Democratic party in the mid-1990s, a move that was attributed to Duff's influence. (She was a major fundraiser for the party.) His political influence was particularly apparent in 1998 when it was revealed that Vernon Jordan had contacted Perelman to arrange for a job for Monica Lewinsky.
Full Name: Ronald Owen Perelman
Date of Birth: 01/01/1943
Place of Birth: Philadelphia, PA
High School: Haverford School
Undergrad: University of Pennsylvania
Residence(s): New York, NY (Upper East Side); East Hampton, NY; Harbour Island, Bahamas
Filed Under: Finance, Business