Ronald Perelman, chairman of Revlon, never made a single payment toward a $65 million pledge to Princeton University for a new residential college bearing his name. The result was the University dropped his name and canceled the donation. The building is set to open in the fall of 2022 without Perelman’s imprimatur.
This news did not make it into the New York Times when it was revealed last summer, and it doesn’t appear in Jacob Bernstein’s lengthy piece today in the Times Style section about Perelman’s declining wealth and health. At the time last summer that this fiasco occurred, only the Daily Beast covered it, as well as the Daily Princetonian. This major scandal escaped even the NY Post’s Page Six, largely because they’ve been in Perelman’s pocket for decades.
“The university has terminated the gift agreement with the Perelman Family Foundation Inc. to name a residential college because the Foundation has not made payments due under that agreement,” Princeton University spokesman Michael Hotchkiss said in a statement back on August 6th. “However, we remain grateful for the Perelman family’s long-standing support of the university, including its support of the Ronald O. Perelman Institute for Judaic Studies.”
That today’s Times piece has missed this is surprising but clearly a masterful move on Perelman’s PR agenda. The Times piece, titled “What Has Ron Perelman Learned?” also fails to examine the Revlon chairman’s personal charitable Perelman Family Foundation. The records are all public, and show that Perelman’s personal giving has been in steady decline for the last several years. The 2015 Form 990, for example, shows Perelman made donations of just over $11 million.
But in 2018 his giving was down to $5.9 million. And by 2019, the number was down to $3.1 million. Another $33 million is listed as promised in the future. Of that, $25 million is earmarked to Brown University. St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn is promised $4.5 million. The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, a relatively new Perelman donee, is set for $2.7 million. In 2019, nearly half that $3.1 million went to them as well.
What’s more, Perelman’s Claudia Cohen Cancer Foundation, formed in 2010 as a memorial to late ex wife, stopped giving donations to cancer professionals in 2018. Prior to that, the foundation had given $50,000 grants annually to researchers. But the 2018 Form 990, the most recent filing available, shows that despite total assets of $328,784, the Foundation claimed just administrative expenses. Indeed, for 2018, Perelman’s contribution to the Claudia Cohen Cancer Foundation was just $8,607. This foundation has been inconsistent in its pattern, giving two awards in gynecological research in 2017, and none in 2016 or 2015 according to it Form 990 filings.
The Times article also mentions in passing Perelman staging fundraising concerts for the Apollo Theater at his Hamptons spread, called The Creeks. When those events first started, Perelman would jump in and play drums with the likes of Jon Bon Jovi. But the events were stopped a few years ago, and before that Perelman himself had ceased being part of the activities. The Times made it seem like they were still ongoing up until the pandemic put a kibosh on everything.
In the Times article, the pull quote is “I am not sick, and I am not broke.” Each of those statements is questionable in light of the Princeton revelation. What Bernstein does do well is dissect the immediate debts of Perelman and Revlon, detailing the sale of his art collection, a $115 million home in Manhattan, and the rumored potential sale of the Creeks.
Also, the fact that Bernstein got Perelman to appear in person and speak on the record is a huge achievement. A billionaire who glowed in the spotlight, Perelman has been absent from the public stage for several years ago. He’s sometimes spotted at the upper East Side restaurant he owns, Le Bilboquet, but — as Bernstein notes– there have been accounts of him walking with a cane. Sometimes it’s said he’s in a wheelchair. A lot of what’s going, as with Princeton, remains a shrouded mystery.