Dealmaker Ronald Perelman has been attending board meetings since he was in elementary school. The son of a billionaire industrialist, Perelman has built his own legacy as one of the most successful users of the high-yield debt (junk) bond market. His 1985 takeover bid for cosmetics giant Revlon became one of the best-known battles in American corporate history. Perelman's storied career began when he bought a stake in a jewelry concern, Cohen-Hatfield, and parlayed that into the controlling interest in MacAndrews & Forbes. From there, he built his fortune with a diverse array of holdings—from candies to cosmetics. As of 2021, Perelman is worth $4 billion. An active philanthropist, he is also the founder of the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program and has established the Department of Dermatology in his name at NYU 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. In September 2017, Forbes magazine named Perelman as one of the "100 Greatest Living Business Minds."
Perelman sharpened his business acumen in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania after attending the Villanova School of Business for one semester. Wharton was a better fit, and Perelman didn't waste any time getting to business in college. HIs first major deal took place in 1961 during his freshman year. While a Wharton student, he and his father bought the Esslinger Brewery for $800,000, then sold it three years later for a $1 million profit. In 1964, Perelman graduated with a bachelor's degree in business, and then followed up with a Master of Business Administration degree from Wharton.
Alongside his extensive success as an investor, Perelman is well known as a generous supporter of his alma mater. Over time, he has served both as a trustee of the school and a member of the Wharton Board of Overseers. In addition, Perelman's name can be found scattered around campus buildings to this day. In 1995, the American banker donated $20 million to renovate the Perelman Quadrangle, gaining naming rights for Logan Hall. The donation then constituted the largest campus life donation in the University’s history. Perelman then topped his previous donation by giving his alma mater a $25 million gift to create the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics, which now provides a home for Penn’s departments of Political Science and Economics.
“I am proud to continue my support of this extraordinary institution that means so much to me and my family,” Perelman said. “This gift underscores my deeply held belief that our next generation must be given the tools to not only understand but positively impact government and the increasingly complex global economy.”