Ronald O. Perelman, W'64, WG'66
At his acceptance speech for the 2013 Joseph Wharton Award for Lifetime Achievement, Ron Perelman credited his Wharton professors for teaching him how to make decisions and why he should make them. That clarity has served him well to create and grow his wholly owned MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, which includes major players in the cosmetics, entertainment, biotechnology and military equipment industries. Similarly, Mr. Perelman makes larger-than-life decisions to give away much of his gains to medical institutions, the arts and to universities.
“I came to Wharton as a typical, kid from Philadelphia. I went through the undergraduate program, and was one of the few who continued through the graduate program. It was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. Wharton took me and gave me a discipline, a focus and the tools to ply my trade. “One of my most influential teachers was Ed Shields, who created, I believe, the first entrepreneurial center in America. Ed taught us, ‘Take the financial training and accounting tools, and use them as the backdrop to use your instincts, your entrepreneurial talents, which all of us have, to make decisions.’
“Another professor, from Australia, Douglas Vickers, was my most quantitative instructor. He would fill up 40-foot-long blackboards with formulas. On our last day of class, the professor said, ‘Look, I taught you all these formulas, and the basis for financial valuations, but I want to leave you with one thought: The most important thing is for you to make decisions. If you don’t make decisions, then someone else will make them for you. Don’t lose control of the decision-making process, and if you make more good decisions than bad decisions, you will be a success.’
“I then went to work for my father, an entrepreneur in Philadelphia, and a fabulous boss, who gave me an enormous amount of authority and responsibility, right out of graduate school. I immediately put into practice the advice of these two significant teachers, and then learned from my father what to do when you make poor decisions, which is to face up to them right away, and correct them.
“If it wasn’t for Wharton, I wouldn’t be here, because I wouldn’t have learned all that I did. I’m truly thankful to all of you for this honor, and to the teachers who spent the time and energy on kids like me.”
Ronald O. Perelman, W’64, WG’66
Ronald O. Perelman, W’64, WG’66, is the Chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, a diversified holding company with interests in cosmetics, entertainment, biotechnology and military equipment. Among the principal interests of MacAndrews & Forbes are Revlon, AM General, Scientific Games, SIGA Technologies, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Harland Clarke, Harland Financial Solutions, Scantron and Global Scholar.
In addition to his extensive business interests, Mr. Perelman is an active philanthropist who believes that powerful results can be achieved when financial resources are leveraged with human resolve. He has established the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Cancer Research Program, the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and the Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical Center. He is Vice Chairman of Carnegie Hall and serves on the boards of the University of Pennsylvania, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center, Ford’s Theater, the Apollo Theater, the Tribeca Film Institute, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Columbia Business School. He is also a member of the French Legion of Honor.
Mr. Perelman holds a B.S. in Economics and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in New York City with his wife, Dr. Anna Chapman, and is the father of eight children.