Ronald O. Perelman

NET WORTH: $9.5 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: MacAndrews & Forbes, Revlon

FUNDING AREAS: Health, Education, Jewish Causes, Arts & Culture, NYC Community

OVERVIEW: Ronald O. Perelman is probably best known as the owner of Revlon, but he has made significant investments in a variety of companies and industries through his holding company MacAndrews & Forbes. For more than 20 years, he has been at the forefront of philanthropy, particularly when it comes to funding cancer research and treatment.

BACKGROUND: Ronald Perelman learned much about investing in businesses from his father, in whose footsteps he followed, attending the Wharton School at Penn. He made his first million-dollar deal while still in college, partnering with his father. After working under his father for more than a decade after graduating college, he struck out on his own in 1978, first acquiring Hatfield Jewelers, and soon after a distributor of licorice extract and chocolate called MacAndrews & Forbes. MacAndrews & Forbes was eventually transformed into his holding company, and in 1985 made a successful play for Revlon.


HEALTH: Perelman has been a long-time champion for cancer research, partnering with the Entertainment Industry Foundation in 1993 to create the Revlon Run/Walk for Women, and founding the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Cancer Research Program in 1994 for research into the causes and treatment of breast and ovarian cancer. The Run/Walks have raised more than $50 million for women’s cancer research, and counseling and outreach programs nationwide. Perelman himself has made significant contributions to the organization as well, helping among other things to bring to market a drug that successfully treats the most aggressive forms of breast cancer more effectively than anything previously available.

Perelman’s other major contributions to medical organizations include more than $50 million to the New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center to create the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine, lead funding for the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Medical Center, and donations to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He also gave $500,000 recently to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in 2014.

EDUCATION: In 2013, Perelman pledged $25 million to establish the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics at his alma mater Penn, and $100 million to the Columbia Business School in New York, where he has been on the board since 1994, to develop a new center to train future business leaders and promote innovation. Add this to the Ronald Perelman Institute for Jewish Studies at Princeton, and about half of the schools in the Ivy League have something named after Perelman. On a smaller scale, Perelman also donates to a number of K-12 schools in the New York area, generally with grants ranging from $10,000 - $100,000, and has endowed higher education as well, primarily in places to which he has personal ties, such as Temple University in Philadelphia.

ARTS & CULTURE: When Perelman makes donations to arts and culture institutions, they tend to be large donations to well-known groups. As an avid art collector, in June 2016 he announced a $75 million donation to construct a performing arts center at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan.  He has contributed more than tens of millions to Carnegie Hall, including a single donation of $20 million, resulting in the main auditorium being named in his honor, and sat on the board there until early 2016. He also made a $20 million donation to the Guggenheim Museum, and hosted benefits for the Apollo Theatre, helping raise more than $2.5 million. He has also contributed more than $2.5 million to Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where he sits on the board of directors, including an emergency contribution that helped the theater continue to operate during the government shutdown. Perelman also recently gave a $3 million gift to Alvin Ailey Dance Theater towards its capital campaign.

JEWISH CAUSES: Perelman’s Jewish heritage is important to him, and he has long been a significant contributor to organizations that advance and preserve that heritage. Most notably, he donated $4.7 million to Princeton to fund the Ronald Perelman Institute for Jewish Studies, and has made numerous significant contributions to a Machne Israel of Chabad Lubavitch, which is dedicated to “the growth of Jewish life and the greater vision of Jewish continuity.”

NYC COMMUNITY: Many of Perelman’s smaller donations support community organizations in and around his home in New York City, where the majority of his focus is on youth development. He serves on the board of the Police Athletic League of New York City, for which he has raised millions of dollars, and which provides a wide range of programs for inner-city kids. He also contributed $5 million to the World Trade Center Memorial Fund, and smaller donations to New York-based organizations such as Boy Scouts of New York, Boys Club of New York, Outward Bound NYC, and the Youth Renewal Fund. Outside New York, he has supported community-building organizations such as the NAACP and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

LOOKING FORWARD: Perelman continues to be a significant force in philanthropy, and seems to be upping his contributions since signing the giving pledge. With a large number of existing major philanthropic commitments, it is more likely that he will continue his current giving patterns. There may be opportunities for the right organizations however, particularly in youth development, financial education, and health initiatives.  


Leaders Magazine Interview