The Makeup Maker Who Would Be Media Mogulby
As if his Revlon supermodels weren't glamorous enough, Ronald O. Perelman may now be reaching for the dazzle of a media empire. His properties are hardly a threat to Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner, but Perelman has assembled enough of a portfolio to suggest that he means to be more than a media dilettante (table). "Any master plan he has for media isn't clear," says Porter Bibb, a banker at Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co. "But Perelman is an exceptionally bright manager."
Not to mention a shrewd investor. Last February, Perelman struck a deal for control of SCI Television Inc., a chain of six TV stations. For just $100 million, he got 52% of a company SCI bought for $1.5 billion in 1987, with top-ranked network affiliates in Atlanta and Milwaukee. Perelman's deal, which also included a Tampa station, was part of a prepackaged Chapter 11 filing after SCI couldn't meet its debt payments. SCI left bankruptcy on May 25 with its stations unscathed.
Now, media watchers are wondering whether Perelman will use SCI as a springboard for bigger leaps. He already owns a Hollywood production company, New World Entertainment Ltd., and 80% of comic-book giant Marvel Entertainment Group. And he recently bought 50% of a TV-program distributor, Genesis Entertainment. All told, Perelman's media assets generated $41.9 million in operating income in 1992 on revenues of $393 million.
Some media executives predict that Perelman will try to assemble an ad hoc TV network, supplying SCI's stations with his programming and selling them to advertisers as a package. To do that, Perelman would probably have to team up with another station group to add some big markets. The prime candidate is Chris-Craft Industries Inc., which owns New York and Los Angeles stations. Investment bankers who know both players say they have talked. Perelman says only that he may buy more stations.
First, though, he might want to raise his profile as a programmer. New World, which began as a producer of B-movies and later became a major TV producer, lost its only network series when ABC retired The Wonder Years. And Genesis just canceled its one major offering, The Whoopi Goldberg Show, which was drowned out in the din of rival talk shows.
EPIC PRODUCTION. If Marvel Comics is any guide, Perelman knows how to add zip to listless media companies. When he bought Marvel in 1989, it trailed rivals such as Time Warner in exploiting its treasure trove of comic-book heroes. Now, Marvel's Spider-Man and X-Men are showing up in TV shows, movies, and merchandise at home and abroad. James Cameron, who directed Terminator 2, is even filming an epic Spider-Man for Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
One measure of Perelman's ambitions may be his choice of William C. Bevins Jr. to run his media properties. Bevins came from Turner Broadcasting System, where he helped Turner pull off his daring acquisition of the MGM/UA Communications film studio. For now, Perelman would still rather be known as a latter-day Charles Revson than a would-be Ted Turner. "We have no franchise in media," he insists. "We're a tiny little company." Pausing a beat, he adds: "But growing."
MEDIA SYNERGY? How Perelman could link his properties: BROADCASTING First, he could ally SCI with another station group to build audience and presence in top TV markets PROGRAMMING Then, the New World and Genesis entertainment units could develop programming for the new network PUBLISHING New World and Genesis could also distribute cartoons based on Marvel Comics characters DATA: BUSINESS WEEK