Ronald Owen Perelman
Ronald Owen Perelman
Amount donated: Lifetime giving exceeds $250m
Philanthropic Causes: Health, education, arts & culture, NYC community, Jewish groups and causes
Region of philanthropic focus: New York
Ranking: Forbes lists him at #78 of the world’s billionaires
Net Worth: Forbes put his real time net worth at $12.5bn as of 23rd April, 2016
Source of wealth: MacAndrews & Forbes, Revlon
Self-made billionaire Ronald Perelman has appeared on lists of the nation’s most generous philanthropists numerous times – his lifetime giving exceeds an incredible $250m. As an early adopter of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, Perelman has committed to donating at least half of his fortune to charitable causes.
Born on 1st January 1943 in Greensboro, North Carolina, 73 year-old Perelman grew up in a conservative Jewish household to parents Ruth (née Caplan) and Raymond Perelman. Earning his master’s degree in 1966 at the Wharton School of the , his first business venture was in 1961 when he, along with his father bought the Esslinger Brewery for $800,000, during which he was still a freshman. Only three years later it was sold for a profit of $1m. Since then, Perelman has been renowned for his ability to buy failing companies before selling them off at a substantial profit.
Since graduating, he worked for his father for over a decade, before going it alone in 1978. He first acquired Cohen-Hatfield Jewellers and soon after MacAndrews & Forbes, a distributor of liquorice extract and chocolate, which his father had failed to acquire a decade before. Merging the two companies in 1984 using cash raised with the help of former ‘junk-bond’ Chief Michael Milken, it was transformed into Perelman’s holding company, and in 1985 the company made its first investment in Revlon. Revlon’s customer base greatly contributed to Perelman’s decision in making women’s health issues one of his major philanthropic causes, as did his second wife, Claudia Cohen’s battle with ovarian cancer. This has lead to Perelman being on the forefront of funding cancer research and treatment for over 20 years.
Perelman is quite a traditional philanthropist, also making major contributions to big educational and cultural institutions. He keeps a substantial amount of his fortune close to home by supporting organisations in his community and causes he is passionate about, alongside organisations his friends make him aware of. Perelman has claimed: “I tend to like projects that no one else may be willing to fund because they are not high profile or there may not be a clear path to success.” This is apparent in his funding of cutting-edge research in the medical field, yet is still to be extended to his other areas of philanthropy.
Perelman has made significant investments in a variety of companies and industries through MacAndrews & Forbes, with stakes in production house, Deluxe Entertainment, lottery outfit,
Scientific Games and Humvee maker, AM General. In addition to his investments, he also gives his time to a number of arts institutions in New York. He serves as Vice Chairman of the and sits on the board of the , the , the and in Washington, D.C. He was also the former chairman of the in New York.
Five times married and with eight children, Perelman has brought up his family following Judaism, in-part due to a religious reawakening at the age of 18 while on a family trip to Israel. He keeps a kosher home and observes the Jewish Sabbath strictly, observing three hours every Saturday in prayers. With Judaism being an integral part of his life, he donates millions to Jewish groups and causes, particularly the Chabad-Lubavitch sect, because he believes they are ‘Judaism’s best chance for surviving and thriving in modern society’.