Raymond Perelman, a businessman who built a fortune buying and selling factories and became one of the Philadelphia region’s greatest philanthropists, has died. He was 101.
He died Monday night, his son Ronald Perelman said in a statement.
In 2011, Perelman donated $225 million to the University of Pennsylvania medical school, which was renamed the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine. The money sped up research, increased student aid and helped recruit faculty members, Penn has said.
Other gifts include $15 million to what is now the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building; $6 million to the Center for Jewish Life at Drexel University; $5 million for the Raymond G. Perelman Plaza at Drexel; and $5 million for the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
“All successful people are risk takers. And I always wanted to be successful,” Perelman told The Philadelphia Inquirer after donating to the Philadelphia Art Museum, which opened the building named for the Perelmans in 2007.
“He just felt he had to do these things. It’s a fire in his belly,” added his wife, Ruth, who died in 2011 after 70 years of marriage.
Perelman was born Aug. 22, 1917, and grew up in Philadelphia.
He was the son of a Lithuanian immigrant who couldn’t read or write. His father had to learn to sign his name, Morris Perelman, before going into the scrap business and founding cardboard-tube maker American Paper Products Co., Raymond Perelman told the Inquirer in a 2012 interview. “If I wrote to God and asked for a father, I couldn’t get a better one.”
After attending the University of Pennsylvania, Raymond went to work for his father’s company. He graduated from the university’s Wharton School of business and served as a flight officer in World War II.
He returned to Philadelphia after the war and invested in factory buildings. He also became a partner in the company that his father founded, expanding into the metals business.
He acquired control of many other businesses, and in 1985 led a successful hostile takeover of General Refractories, selling part of the company but holding onto its mining business until his death.
Beyond Perelman’s public works, “he was a mentor and a wonderful father, as well as a deeply loving grandfather and great grandfather,” said son Ronald Perelman, in a statement.