Billionaire Perelman Seeks to Reset Empire to Face New World

Ronald Perelman, who built a business empire over decades spanning cosmetics, military vehicles and pharmaceuticals, is looking to rework his holdings as the global pandemic has pinched corporate profits and upended strategies.

MacAndrews & Forbes, his business run from a townhouse on East 62nd Street in Manhattan, is looking at options including the divestment of certain assets, according to spokesman Josh Vlasto.

“Due to changes in the world both socially and economically, we have decided to reset MacAndrews & Forbes in a manner that will give us maximum flexibility both financially and personally,” Vlasto said in a statement to Bloomberg. “This will allow us to be opportunistic and flexible in looking at new situations.”

Perelman, 77, started in 1978 with a $1.9 million bank loan, according to a Bloomberg profile of the dealmaker. He used it to buy a New Jersey jewelry-store chain, which he liquidated for $15 million.

He rose to prominence during the 1980s, backed by Michael Milken’s junk-bond machine. Landmark deals included Consolidated Cigar Holdings and the hostile takeover of Revlon Inc. He often targeted companies that were in trouble or undervalued, helping him become one of the wealthiest people in the world, but he also frequently tangled with lenders.

MacAndrews & Forbes currently backs a number of highly levered companies with debt trading at distressed levels, including Revlon and Vericast Corp. It also owns stakes in Humvee-maker AM General and gambling-products firm Scientific Games Corp.

The billionaire said he was exploring selling his shares in Scientific Games, according to a filing Wednesday morning in New York. Perelman entities hold about 39% of the company, which has a market valuation of $1.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

There have been other signs Perelman is looking to sell. One of his investments, drug discounter RxSaver, has been in talks with potential buyers, Bloomberg reported in June. Revlon has been working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. since last year to review alternatives.

Perelman is worth $7.8 billion, making him the 79th wealthiest person in the U.S., according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Along the way, he’s amassed an art collection that rivals world-class museums and is worth billions.

He’s also become one of the largest philanthropists in the country. In 2018, Princeton announced a $65 million father-daughter gift from Perelman and his daughter Debra, Revlon’s chief executive officer. He hosted an annual party at his East Hampton home to raise money for Harlem’s Apollo Theater.

Still, his fortune has tumbled from more than $19 billion in January 2018. Revlon has struggled with a high debt load and faced competition from a host of smaller companies that have used social media to lure away customers.

There’s also been plenty of changes at MacAndrews & Forbes.

Paul Savas, the chief financial officer, was pushed out last month after he failed to comply with processes and procedures regarding a related party transaction. Steve Cohen, general counsel for eight years, left last week to start his own firm, though he’s still advising MacAndrews & Forbes, according to Bloomberg Law.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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