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For Ronald Perelman, who is picking up the legal bills for his daughter’s lawsuit, this is one of many legal encounters with family members. Beyond his ex-wives and former brother-in-law, Perelman also was a party to the family’s toughest feud, when his brother Jeffrey argued that their father unfairly gave Ronald a greater share of the family business. The claims and counterclaims reached the U.S. Court of Appeals, but eventually all of them were dismissed.
Ronald Perelman’s third wife, Patricia Duff, converted to Judaism before the marriage, and the extent of her adherence to Jewish laws became a court issue in the couple’s custody case, when Perelman’s attorneys claimed Duff took their daughter to an Easter egg hunt during Passover. In 2000, Perelman married the Jewish actress Ellen Barkin. The marriage lasted six years and made the couple frequent guests in the Hollywood gossip columns. In 2010 he married his current wife, Anna Chapman, who also converted to Judaism.
But while at home and in the boardrooms, the Perelmans have earned a take-no-prisoner reputation, the family members have also made a name for themselves as leading philanthropists. In 2011, Raymond and Ruth Perelman donated $225 million to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, which they had supported generously in the past. They were also major funders of Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History ($1.3 million); the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; American Friends of the Israel Museum, and Perelman Jewish Day School in Wynnewood, Pa. In 1999, Raymond Perelman famously took back his pledge to donate $2 million to the Akiba Hebrew Academy, in Merion Station, Pa., because the school refused to rename it after him.
Ronald Perelman’s philanthropic activity has included large donations to medical research institutions and to art museums, and while still giving significant amounts to the University of Pennsylvania, he now directs much of his philanthropy at causes in and around New York, where he resides. In 2006 he gave a $4.7 million gift to Princeton University to establish its Jewish studies institute.
While his father’s donations to the Jewish community focused on education in line with the principles of Conservative Judaism, Ronald Perelman’s philanthropic giving to religious institutions reflects the shift he has made to becoming Orthodox from growing up Conservative and attending a Reconstructionist synagogue.
A rare father-and-son interview that Raymond and Ronald Perelman gave Forbes in 2011 provides a glimpse into the son’s world of Jewish beliefs.