A. Jerrold (Jerry) Perenchio (December 20, 1930 – May 23, 2017) was an American billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He was at one time the chairman and chief executive officer of Univision.
Perenchio was the grandson of Italian immigrants Giovanni (John) Batiste Perenchio and Madeline D’Adda, who came to the United States in 1896 from the northern Italian village of Pavone. His grandfather established the Fresno Grape Exchange, built a packinghouse that shipped fresh fruits and vegetables to the Great Lakes region, and later – at the age of 60 – founded the Crestview Winery. Perenchio was raised in Fresno until the age of fifteen when he was sent to Black Foxe Military Institute in Los Angeles for three-and-a-half years, graduating in 1949. In the fall of that year he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and attended for five years, completing his B.S. in Business in 1954. He financed his own way through college, first with a series of odd jobs and then by establishing a small company – Party Management – that booked bands and catered parties at UCLA and the University of Southern California. During his last two years at UCLA, Perenchio was a member of the Air Force ROTC, which required that he serve a three-year term in the Air Force after graduating. In 1955 he entered the Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant and earned his wings as a single-engine jet fighter pilot. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and received an honorable discharge in 1958.
Perenchio’s first foray into business was Party Management, founded during his freshman year in college. It was highly successful and became the major service that fraternities and sororities at UCLA and USC used to organize entertainment and menus for their social events. The company also catered private parties outside collegiate circles. While in the Air Force, Perenchio booked bands for officers’ clubs at air bases in Northern California. He supplemented his flight pay considerably, and made contacts with talent agents in the entertainment business that would set the course of his career. In 1958 Perenchio joined MCA in the Band and Act Department. He moved up the ranks to become the youngest vice president in the agency’s history, and was made Head of the Concert Department for the eleven Western states and the Far East. Perenchio has said that he got his "MBA at MCA" and learned basic tenets that later informed his Rules of the Road: "take options, never grant them"; "never sell assets – lease them on a very short string"; "stay in the business you understand"; "make the calls and know the territory." He worked at MCA for four years until July 13, 1962 when the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department shut down MCA’s talent-representing operations.
After the break-up of MCA, Perenchio started Perenchio Artists with a partner in 1963. Their roster of clients included Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Henry Mancini, José Feliciano, Glen Campbell, Sergio Mendes, the Kingston Trio and the Righteous Brothers, among others, many of whom followed Perenchio from MCA. Perenchio eventually merged with the Hugh French Agency to form Chartwell Artists, which represented actors, directors, writers, musicians and singers. Perenchio’s focus remained on live entertainment. In 1969, while in London with Henry Mancini, Perenchio was introduced to Elton John, who had just recorded his first album. By the following summer, in August, 1970, Perenchio brought John from London to Los Angeles and rented out the Troubadour club in Hollywood for two weeks to showcase John’s talent. Word got out after the first performance and John became an overnight sensation, launching his career in the United States. Chartwell Artists grew to be the fifth-largest talent agency in the world. It was sold to International Creative Management (ICM) in 1972 when Perenchio decided to leave the agency business.
In March 1971 Perenchio promoted the Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden that brought together two unbeaten world heavyweight boxing champions, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Each fighter was guaranteed $2.5 million for the fight. The event blended sports with spectacle and glamorized boxing, in part because the sold-out crowd at the Garden included celebrities and politicians. Perenchio enlisted concert promoters to help sell 1.5 million closed-circuit tickets throughout the United States, and sold the rights in over 100 countries. Two years later, in September 1973, he promoted the Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs that took place at the Houston Astrodome. It was the largest live audience (30,472) for any tennis match ever, and was the highest rated broadcast for that year when it was televised during prime-time on ABC-TV.
Looking to branch out into television and motion pictures, Perenchio joined Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin in 1973 as a partner at Tandem Productions, and was made president and CEO. As part of the deal, Perenchio brought with him Alan Horn, a young Harvard Business School Graduate whom he had recently hired away from Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. In recruiting Horn, Perenchio wanted to bring someone new into the business, someone with an outside perspective that he could train. Within a few years, Perenchio made Horn president of Tandem and the two worked together from 1973-1985 until the company and its parent company, Embassy Communications were sold to Columbia Pictures. Horn went on to become a prominent figure in the film industry; he co-founded Castle Rock Entertainment, was president and COO of Warner Brothers and currently serves as chairmen of Walt Disney Studios.
Perenchio’s business acumen combined with the creative talents of Lear and Yorkin transformed Tandem into the top television production and distribution company of its time, with hit shows that included All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, Good Times and Diff’rent Strokes. Perenchio and Lear went on to form T.A.T. Communications Company – which launched The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time, along with a number of other successful half-hour situation comedies – and later purchased Embassy Pictures in 1982 (with Horn as CEO). He teamed up with Yorkin, separately, to produce the 1982 dystopian science fiction thriller Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford. Perenchio and Lear sold Embassy to The Coca-Cola Company in 1985, for $485 million in Coca-Cola stock.
After the sale of Embassy Communications, Perenchio went on to produce Driving Miss Daisy with the Zanuck Company in 1989. The film featured Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, and won four Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Picture. In 2002, Perenchio produced Frida with his wife Margaret Perenchio, which starred Selma Hayek. Throughout his career, Perenchio recognized opportunity in all facets of the entertainment industry, and brokered some of the most lucrative deals in the business: the sale of Caesars Palace to Lums Restaurants in 1969; the sale of A&M Records to PolyGram in 1989; and the sale of the Motown – again to PolyGram – in 1993. He is considered a pioneer of pay television and co-founded National Subscription Television (ON-TV) in 1977, which featured mainstream movies, sports events and concert specials and became the largest "over-the-air" pay television network in the world. From 1985-1987 Perenchio owned the Loews Theater Chain, with locations in New York, New Jersey, Texas, California and five other states. With the relaxation of federal regulations concerning the Paramount Decrees, he sold the chain to Tri-Star Pictures at nearly four times the purchase price. It was the first deal of its kind between a theater chain and a film studio since the antitrust ruling by the Supreme Court in 1948.
Perenchio’s most ambitious enterprise was partnering with Mexican media titan Emilio Azcárraga Milmo to purchase the Univision television network in 1992 for $550 million. The network was renamed Univision Communications, Inc. and built into a Fortune 500 company. Perenchio served as chairman and chief executive officer, and was the Controlling Shareholder. Over a period of fifteen years, Univision expanded existing facilities, purchased 35 additional television stations, added Spanish radio stations, acquired Mexican record companies, and grew into one of the most successful multimedia companies in the world. It became the most popular Spanish-language broadcast network in the United States and the first foreign language television network to occasionally outperform English language networks in the United States ratings. In 1996 the company went public and traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol UVN. Perenchio sold Univision Communications in March 2007 for $13.5 billion to Saban Capital Group, Inc., led by investor Haim Saban. A lifelong Republican, Perenchio was a supporter of Republican initiatives and advocacy organizations. He was co-finance director for Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and an influential supporter for Carly Fiorina’s 2016 presidential primary campaign.
Throughout his life, Perenchio’s charitable donations were made anonymously, with substantial support given to the arts, education, health and a wide range of organizations in Los Angeles County. He was largely responsible for financing the state-of-the-art Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which opened in 2008. In November 2014 Perenchio made a bequest to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) of 47 works of art valued at $500 million. The bequest, which is the largest gift of art in the museum’s history, will go in effect after his death provided that LACMA completes construction of its new building by the end of 2023. At the press conference announcing his bequest, Perenchio declared that "A big part of the heart and soul of any city is its dedication and commitment to the arts… I hope the gift of my art collection to LACMA will inspire other collectors to do the same and encourage all types of donations large and small." At the same press conference, former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said of Perenchio "There is no citizen of this community who has been more generous, and has asked for less..." From 2000, Perenchio served on the board of trustees for The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. In 2011 he received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts Degree from Cal State University, Fresno at the school’s Centennial Commencement.
Perenchio was married three times and was separated from his third wife, Margaret Perenchio. He had one son and two adopted daughters from his first marriage, along with six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Perenchio resided in the 42-room former Kirkeby Estate in Bel Air, which was used as the Clampett's mansion in the original The Beverly Hillbillies TV series. He purchased the home in 1986 and had it remodeled to more closely resemble the original design of an authentic 18th-century French chateau. He afterward bought many of the surrounding properties, expanding the compound to nearly 13 acres of land. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, "His compound of lawns, formal gardens, woodlands and vineyards would require at least 6.1 million gallons of water per year" – making him part of a group of "mega-water users" in arid Southern California, whose water consumption became a political issue as a result of drought and global warming.