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Although Not Nearly on as Lofty a Level, Ron Perelman’s Story Kind of Intersects with Mine

Not too long ago here was a story in that paper in the city that never sleeps, The New York Times, about Ron Perelman that struck several chords, or maybe a few high notes in my own life, yet not anywhere on quite as grand or towering a level, but still up there.

Like once I lived on the 20th floor at the Essex House, one of Manhattan’s luxuriously fungible tokens Perelman acquired when he married the first of his five wives, Faith Golding, a real estate heiress whose properties included that stately residence, now part hotel and condominium, yet still majestically overlooking Central Park. 

One of my closest friends Al Martino, owner of the Al Martino Agency in New York, over the years supplied Perelman with many private chefs and other personnel at his palatial residences in Manhattan and in the Hamptons.

The story mentions Perelman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, my alma mater, and met his second wife Claudia Cohen at my favorite hangout, Le Cirque.  Cohen left her job as editor of Page Six at The New York Post to join ABC where I was Director of PR Planning and writing speeches for the top brass. 

Then it cites one of my former PR clients, Drexel Burnham Lambert, for making Perelman a billionaire. Once I induced media in the Northeast to adopt the title I created for Joe Murphy, at the time president of Drexel Burnham Lambert Real Estate.  Joe had raised a billion dollars to build three casinos and a condo in my hometown, Atlantic City.  I dubbed him The Financial Helmsman of Atlantic City.  And the name stuck to Joe like money did during that golden era of junk bonds.  He was so happy with results, he let me publicize a million-dollar gift he gave to his alma mater Iona College, where I got to meet the Dalai Lama, who spoke there one day.  No, I did not say Hello Dalai.

Covering so much fruitful ground, the story in the Times was incisively comprehensive about the mogul who led the hugely successful cosmetics colossus Revlon over the many years it was the leader in that lucrative business, but whose lead was overtaken by competitors like Rihanna and Kylie Jenner. 

The story in the Times by Jacob Bernstein was titled The Debt King and its thesis was Perelman seemed to have everything until the bill arrived as eventually debt from his seemingly borrowing mania incurred in so many transactions was creating sinkholes in a shriveling empire.

The article cites that Revlon’s $1.034 billion acquisition of Elizabeth Arden in 2016 was financed largely with loans that grew to $3 billion. Vericast had loans totaling almost as much.

And a number of those loans were secured by Perelman’s properties, artwork and toys. When the pandemic hit and Revlon’s share price fell from $24 to $5, the banks closed in, and he began divesting.

Off went a Miro and a Matisse, a Giacometti sculpture, a second Hamptons estate owned by Mr. Perelman and occupied by his second wife, Claudia Cohen, until her death in 2007, and went on the market for $115 million.

Finally, Perelman I was told was one of the investors in a pilot for a TV show I created called “I Dream of Money” starring then popular financial columnist Dan Dorfman.  We shot the pilot with Japanese steakhouse Benihana founder Rocky Aoki as one of the guests, but the series never made it.  Sorry Ron.

In All the PR Firms In All The Towns In The World, She Has To Walk Into Mine!

Now here’s a short story from my book SPIN MAN published in 1997.

You never know who’s going to walk in the door next.  Get a whiff of that Jasmin? 

That’s Mrs. Tepperman.  She comes in wearing a blue silk dress that matches her sky-blue eyes.  She comes into my office unannounced, closes the door and sits down. 

“Can this be strictly confidential?” she asks.  I nod.  “Do you know who I am?  I squint wishing I could light a cigarette, but I gave up smoking 20 years ago.

I’m Denese Tepperman.  Wham!  The headlines come roaring back.  Big ones!  Her husband Fred was billionaire Ron Perelman’s chief financial guy.   Fred had engineered the Revlon buyout and other colossal deals that made Perelman the wealthiest man in America.  Perelman had to be to afford his hefty divorce settlements, like the $80 million he coughed up to shed wife #2, TV gossip Claudia Cohen.  And now his third marriage was like last week’s mascara—gone.  The cosmetics heir had secretly filed for divorce from wife #3, Patricia Duff, after 21 months.

Their quarreling erupted into a doozy during the Chicago Democratic Convention.  And the split was sealed during a makeup attempt at Perelman’s Long Island estate when after he had her searched, he discovered she was wearing a concealed tape recorder. 

Now Fred had gone after Perelman and also had gotten his piece of him.  A lawsuit Fred had brought against his former employer for firing him ended in a whopping settlement.

Perelman had fired Fred claiming he had missed too much work while staying home caring for his terminally ill wife.

The settlement cost Perelman millions and had made him look pretty damn callous toward poor Fred who was only doing his duty.  But was he? 

Denese told me otherwise.  Fred had stayed at home to care for her.  She was his dying wife’s nurse.  And I could see why he cared for her.  Denese was slim, attractive and intense.  Before his former wife died, Fred got a Dominican divorce, married Denese and they moved into a $2 million home he bought for her in Boca Raton.  Now he’s divorcing me and I want it in the paper.  Can you do that for me Tom? 

Sure, I said (Sam is playing As Time Goes By on the Tibetan Singing Bowls.)

She drops her card on my desk.  That’s my beeper number on the back.  (Remember those?) She stops at the door, turns and smiles.  Not a big story, Tom.  Just little ones in The New York Times and the New York Post. 

Sure, I nodded as Rick would do in Casablanca confronted with such a request by a beautiful doll.  I’ll get you those exit visas.  Don’t worry your pretty head.  Leave it up to me.  From now on, kid, let me do the thinking for both of us. 

Cut.  Print.

Besides an imaginative writer and blogger, Tom Madden is a former journalist and  author of countless published articles and five books, including his latest, WORDSHINE MAN, available in March  on Amazon.   He is the founder and CEO of TransMedia Group, an award-winning public relations firm serving clients worldwide since 1981 and has conducted remarkably successful media campaigns and crisis management for America’s largest companies and organizations.

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