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The Big Take

Wall Street Legend Perelman’s Family Trust Tied to Mystery Loans

He was once America’s richest man, friend to supermodels and a fixture in tabloids. Now he’s selling his empire, and his family foundation has made mysterious loans.

Ronald Perelman in 1991.
Ronald Perelman in 1991.

Photographer: Rob Kinmonth/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

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After achieving magazine-cover status as the richest U.S. businessman in 1989, Ronald Perelman began making a name for himself as one of the country’s top philanthropists too.

But a few years ago, the Perelman family’s largest private foundation — housing hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, mainly from his father — began making a series of stark disclosures in arcane filings: It was engaged in forbidden credit transactions with a “disqualified person.” That is, someone with ties to the foundation.