Ike Perlmutter doesn’t give a damned about Spiderman and the Avengers, or even comic books period. Ownership of comic book characters to him offers no real value other than the considerable dent they have left on the collective consciousness of not only most Americans but also the entire world. An incredibly powerful dent when one considers the foundation of said dent is of plethora of comic book stories featuring various characters published each and every month for 50 years.
This is a man who’s essence is all about the Benjamins, and he cares about all old and new staff at Marvel Comics who have been involved in the production of the comics about as much as he cares about J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carroll, and Hans Christian Andersen. Their creations the comic books themselves, their imagination fueled technicolor melodramas are simply a means to an end who’s only real serious economic value is keeping the profit potential potentially infinite and never ending.
Or at least have the appearance of such just long enough for him to maximize what that particular asset can accomplish for him. The simple fact is, he’s already almost there. All it would take would be his continuous ruthless pursuit of increased profits to seize full control of two of the six major studios and not only would he effectively be unstoppable, at which point he would have no need for keeping the Marvel Comics “presses” continuously running. He could simply mine the best of the best of 50 years for multiple decades.
Los Angeles Times
Marvel’s chief executive is hardly a household name. But Disney’s purchase of the comic book publisher made Perlmutter one of the largest individual shareholders in the entertainment conglomerate, giving him special powers all his own.
Superheroes are big business in Hollywood, accounting for three of the top-grossing films in the U.S. this year: Marvel’s”The Avengers,””The Dark Knight Rises” and”The Amazing Spider-Man.”At a time when other expensive movie gambles such as”John Carter”and”Battleship”bombed, Disney’s decision to pay $4 billion for Marvel in 2009 seems inspired.
“The Avengers” was Disney’s biggest hit of the year, reaping $1.5 billion in worldwide box-office revenue. That came on the heels of last year’s Marvel movies:”Thor”and”Captain America: The First Avenger”— which together brought in more than $800 million globally.
According to people inside the Burbank conglomerate, Perlmutter backed a shake-up in the consumer products group that led to the film studio’s distribution head, Bob Chapek, replacing retail veteran Andy Mooney. Mooney and Perlmutter were said to have clashed over the approach to merchandising Marvel characters. The change cleared the way for the Marvel executive to inject the Disney’s merchandise licensing group with his cost-cutting sensibilities.
People who know the 69-year-old Israeli emigre are not surprised to find him taking a hands-on role at Disney, maintaining regular contact by phone.
“This guy’s whole life is dedicated to being a success,” said former Marvel CEO Scott M. Sassa, who is now president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication. Sassa said Perlmutter has shown himself especially adept at turning around troubled companies, including Remington and Marvel.
“He’s not Mr. Charming, but once you get to know him, he’s a guy that I really like a lot,” Sassa said. “He’s super smart, incredibly loyal to people and highly principled.”
By all accounts, Perlmutter has an eye for recognizing value in businesses that others deemed worthless, and exercises a frugality that has become the stuff of lore. Former executives say Perlmutter would retrieve paper clips from the trash and tear up old memos to create new notepads. One college intern called home to report that Marvel refused to turn on the air conditioning during one sweltering New York heat wave, according to a one person with knowledge of the incident who declined to be named because of the person’s relationship with the company.
The bottom-line focus has extended to the New York-based Marvel’s foray into Hollywood.
The upstart Marvel Studios quickly earned a reputation for keeping a lid on costs, seeking out filmmakers and stars who were hungry for a comeback and willing to work for relatively modest rates. Director Jon Favreau was still feeling the sting of “Zathura” when he signed on for his career-changing “Iron Man,”while Joe Johnston was fleeing the grisly failure of”The Wolfman” when Marvel handed him the shield of “Captain America: The First Avenger.” ReboundingRobert Downey Jr. wasn’t even the highest-paid star in “Iron Man.” That was Terrence Howard.
Perlmutter personally oversaw marketing costs for “Iron Man” and other Marvel films, scrutinizing every cent spent on vendors and promotions and bringing an uncommon vigilance to expenses, say people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly. And agents consider Marvel one of the toughest places to make a deal for talent.
Perlmutter’s power and influence at Disney are all the more amazing given his background.
Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter arrived in New York at age 24 with $250 in his pocket and dreams of making his fortune, according to longtime friend and former Marvel board Chairman Morton E. Handel. Now, Perlmutter has a net worth that Forbes magazine estimated at $1.9 billion, ranking him among the 500 wealthiest Americans. He splits his time between a $3.2-million Palm Beach, Fla., condominium and a Manhattan apartment near the East River.
“He is the Hollywood antithesis,” Handel said. “He doesn’t go to movies to any appreciable degree.”
“He’s unafraid. He doesn’t care about public sentiment or what people think about him,” Sassa said. “He cares about what makes most sense to him.”
His crowning achievement is Marvel, which he acquired out of bankruptcy by out-maneuvering financiers Ron Perelman and Carl Icahn.
Under Perlmutter, Marvel reinvented itself. Comic books became, in effect, Marvel’s research and development arm, developing characters and story lines that could be exploited through film, TV and video games. Licensing deals with 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures revealed that Marvel characters such as the X-Men andSpider-Man could transcend comic books and connect with mainstream audiences.
By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times: August 16, 2012
Times staff writers Geoff Boucher and John Horn contributed to this report.
Sources now tell me that all three female executives in employments disputes with the Walt Disney Co have settled – including one today. This is many months after the women lost their jobs in a Department Of Consumer Products reorganization set in motion nearly a year ago by Marvel boss Ike Perlmutter who is Disney’s 2nd largest shareholder. Former DCP head of fashion and home products Pam Lifford, former chief financial officer Anne Gates, and former DCP HR exec Susan Cole Hill were all represented by the same attorney with the Pasadena law firm Hadsell, Stormer, Keeny, Richardson and Rennick which has sued Disney in other employee rights cases. According to my sources, the three women, who are all African Americans, referred to themselves as “The Help” – a reference to last summer’s hit DreamWorks movie distributed by Disney and set during the civil rights movement about black maids in Mississippi.
The reorganization took place in September 2011 but the negotiations for the exit settlements dragged on. Some insiders claim the law firm didn’t return Disney’s calls because it first wanted a story damaging to Perlmutter to appear in the media. An article appeared on Thursday, and Disney and Marvel and Perlmutter now are in damage control mode. Financial Times LA-based correspondent Matthew Garrahan broke the news about these three African-American female execs, their respective job status after their boss Andy Mooney was replaced as the head of DCP, and their hiring an attorney. At the time he wrote that only one of the three women had settled with Disney.
But the FT story also reported that, when African-American actor Terrence Howard was replaced by African-American actor Don Cheadle in the role of Colonel Jim Rhodes for Iron Man 2, ”Perlmutter apparently told Mr. Mooney the change cut costs. He allegedly added words to the effect that no one would notice because black people ‘look the same’,” Garrahan wrote. A Marvel spokesperson told the FT in a statement: “Mr. Perlmutter and all of Marvel have a long record of diversity in the workplace and on movie sets around the world as evidenced by both Mr. Perlmutter’s own history and Marvel’s management team.”
The last thing Disney wants is bad press about the reclusive (Forbes found this 1985 photo, right), opinionated, parsimonious, and incredibly successful 69-year-old Perlmutter.
Perlmutter’s influence inside Disney is gigantic ever since his $4B sale of Marvel to Mouse House CEO Bob Iger in 2009. I reported back in April that one of the reasons Rich Ross was summarily fired as chairman of the Walt Disney Studios was because the Marvel Entertainment CEO was a very vocal detractor. The comic book, TV, and film company boss is a notoriously tough customer eager to back-seat manage everything. (As I quoted a source saying in April: “Iger has real problems. Bob thought he could handle him. But Ike is uncharmable.”)
It’s not unusual that the budget-obsessed megalomaniac Perlmutter who many consider a merchandising and toy licensing genius was behind the Disney DCP reorganization because of Marvel’s huge importance to Disney’s future fortunes. (Jeffrey Katzenberg did similar when Universal began to distribute DreamWorks SKG product and when Paramount made the deal to distribute DreamWorks Animation toons.) Sources tell me Disney’s DCP needed reorganizing because it was still in ”High School Musical-Hannah Montana” mode. To ramp up for Marvel’s aggressive release schedule, Perlmutter approved the replacement of Mooney with Bob Chapek, Disney’s former home entertainment head who helped secure Hollywood’s adoption of Blu-ray discs, and DCP’s top licensing job to Marvel exec Josh Silverman. Now DCP focuses on its big TV/film franchises rather than individual product categories.
By NIKKI FINKE | Friday August 17, 2012