Ron Perelman, one of the wealthiest men in America, sits down for his first ever Q&A.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Ron Perelman, Spring 95
(continued from page 18)
Shanken: On the flip side, you can ask yourself: Should one man make a billion and a half dollars a year, and his brother a half billion?
Perelman: But America is not about legislating economic success. I mean, you might tax it, but don't legislate against it. This country has been built in large measure by the entrepreneurs who came out with either a concept, or an idea, or a product or a way of doing business.
Shanken: As far as I know, Ron Perelman is untainted. But you're up there, and people want to take shots at a guy who's successful, visible. Do you think sometimes that somebody's going to want to get you?
Perelman: I think that we've been very diligent about making sure that what we do is not only legally correct and morally correct but has the appearance of both. I think that early on I recognized that we would be doing business in arenas that were new to me. And as such, I surrounded myself with a lot of talent--legal talent, financial talent--to make sure that everything we did, was and looked and smelled proper and correct. And I think that's been very important to us in the past and will continue to be important to us in the future.
Shanken: One of the things I read about also is that you have this small group of associates who not only are bright, but you are all great friends. As the story goes, you have breakfast together every day, you have lunch together every day. When you and I had lunch last month, you brought two of them along. Who are these people and what are their roles in this senior management group?
Perelman: Well, the first senior executive that joined the company was Bruce Slovin, who had been the second most senior guy at Hanson Industries--a Harvard-educated lawyer. He started out and continues to be primarily associated with acquisitions. Then, probably my longest and dearest and closest friend in the world, Howard Gittis, who was my lawyer when I was in Philadelphia. He was the managing partner of Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen and was considering a change of career about 10 years ago. And I said if you're going to change your career, there's only one career path that you're going to be on, and he joined us. He's the senior administrative officer. And then Donald Drapkin, who had been our partner at Skadden Arps, likewise reached a point where he was thinking about a change of career, and I made the same speech to him that I made to Gittis and he joined us at that time, and he's basically our in-house strategic thinker. He's our in-house investment banker.
Shanken: Are you like brothers?
Perelman: In a lot of ways, we are. We have been very fortunate to have within the enterprise a unique relationship.
Shanken: You are very lucky then. What do you say to yourself when you think about what you've accomplished in your career? Your career isn't over?
Perelman: I hope not. I try not to think about it in that kind of way. I think I've been enormously fortunate. I am a great believer that you don't do everything on your own, that there's in fact a plan, a grand plan, and I try to minimize the amount of time that any of us spend thinking about the job that's been done in the past, whether it was the best we could have done or not. Just concentrate on what we're doing today and what we'll do in the future. I can appreciate you asking the question, but I don't think about it.
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