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Ike Perlmutter! Get To Know Your Billionaire Marvel Chief Exec

When I spoke to BBC Radio Four’s Front Row about David Gabriel’s comments regarding “diversity” in Marvel Comics’ output (I’m about fifteen minutes in), I touched briefly on the power and influence of  Isaac Perlmutter, more regularly known as Ike. My awareness of the individual is fairly new, a result of swallowing a few bigulps of Dan Raviv’s Comic Wars earlier this year. Comic Wars is about the huge ownership and bankruptcy lawsuits that plagued Marvel during the mid to late nineteen nineties — Perlmutter went into those a co-owner of ToyBiz, which had an exclusive license for producing Marvel toys, and came out of them the owner of Marvel. I don’t know how yet; I haven’t finished reading.

Jason Roberts for Reuters, via the New York Times: I Perlmutter

Jason Roberts for Reuters, via the New York Times: Ike Perlmutter

Perlmutter bought ToyBiz in 1990 and in 1993 traded a large minority percentage of its equity for  “exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free license” to create Marvel character products. When Marvel was doing poorly (because “Marvel” had to answer for the losses of baseball card companies that “Marvel” had acquired — business is stupid), ToyBiz was doing well; to get Marvel free of its bankruptcy, ToyBiz and Marvel had to merge, becoming Marvel Enterprises, with Perlmutter’s role evolving over several years to that of Marvel CEO. ToyBiz became Marvel Toys, which was productive until late 2007.

In 2009 Perlmutter profited from sale of Marvel Entertainment to Disney. He remains Chief Executive, and owns a stake in Disney. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “as one of the largest Disney shareholders, he’s one of the few industry figures with a direct line of communication to [Disney] CEO Bob Iger.”

Perlmutter has been making mainstream news more recently because he and his wife were large donors to the election campaign of President Donald Trump, and continue to fraternise with the President at his tacky Mar-a-Lago venue where Perlmutter “informally” advises Trump on “veterans issues.” Here’s an article about that from the New York Times, which stands out to me: it features an image of Ike Perlmutter’s face.

Perlmutter with Trump, screen cap via The Beat

Perlmutter is with Trump, screen cap via The Beat

The Beat reported on the first time a 2017 image of Ike received play — it was made clear, and is made clear in the article linked, that this man’s love of privacy extends to an extremely tight hold on his public image. Prior to his involvement with the presidential Trump, the below image from the nineteen eighties was the only available stock shot of Perlmutter. The Hollywood Reporter went so far as to commission an artist’s impression of what he may have looked like “today,” in 2006. Various profiles describe Perlmutter as having attended the Iron Man premiere in disguise, though where this story is originally sourced from I cannot say.

I Perlmutter, 1980s, unsourced image via the Telegraph

Ike Perlmutter, 1980s, unsourced image via the Telegraph

Isaac Perlmutter is a billionaire with powerful opportunity for influence at both Marvel Comics and at Disney, the parent company of Marvel Entertainment. He has the ability to take responsibility for the products, staff, and creative workers which have made him a billionaire. He pro-actively aligns himself with a farcical president who ran on bigotry and selfish, fact-averse gratification. He is Jewish and should not be catching blame without nuance for Nazi-Hydra-Cap. What can be said is that’s he is an adult in charge of his own life, and that he has a reputation for anti-black racism, for purposeful exclusion of women in toylines, for being an abusive boss.

Perlmutter enjoys a reputation for medical philanthropy based in a fifty million donation to a New York cancer centre subsequently re-named to honour his wife and himself, but this is a donation given only five years after Perlmutter received nine hundred million in cash (plus shares) from the sale of Marvel to Disney. Going by Perlmutter’s net worth in 2016, a fifty million dollar donation would be an outlay of only one percent of his personal value. This is supposing the money was given by him alone, rather than an amount contributed to by both he and his wife, and that their finances are separate.

Even considering this donation an act of true, individual generosity, why is Perlmutter speaking privately to Trump about veterans issues, and not the prevention of the loss of healthcare to so many Americans being fought for and, on the fourth of May, won by the Republicans of the Trump administration? His own status as a veteran is accepted, though hard to verify for myself owing to a combination of his strict personal privacy and his service being with the Israeli Army. It’s widely supposed that he participated in 1967’s Six Day War and emigrated to America that same year, aged twenty-four. Having been an ex-military veteran for fifty years now Perlmutter surely has a lot of experience hours racked up, but one must wonder if the experience of an individual with rare gall and hustle who grew into a billionaire over the second half of the last century can be analogous to the concerns of the average veteran in 2017.

Further dampening the glow around the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center is the knowledge Perlmutter has no personal donation to the Hero Initiative, a non-profit organisation set up to support comic book creatives in their direst hours of need (such as when they are ill in a privatised healthcare system), on public record. Perlmutter’s Marvel millions came to him through not only the 300 Marvel staff counted by the Hollywood Reporer in 2014, but through the work of freelancers — freelancers who today rely on a combination of the ACA (“Obamacare”) and charity to keep their bills paid, debts covered, and lives continuing. There’s a Billionaire way up the pyramid from those people collecting single page fees when they’re lucky enough to score a Marvel gig.

Forbes, I Perlmutter profile

Forbes, Ike Perlmutter profile

Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter features on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a list of the five hundred richest people. He is at four-hundred and forty. What do you suppose he could do with all that power?

  1. Rich Johnston

    May 5, 2017 at 11:19 am

    As someone who has covered the career of the man for decades now, there’s some other aspects which might be worth referring to or clarifying. Some, like the Iron Man toy line example, were nothing to do with him. This appears to have been one of a number of cases where people at Marvel Studios would blame their own unpopular decisions on Perlmutter.

    He did write the e-mail about female superhero lead movies underperforming, but he was, for example, responsible for the Spider-Gwen comic getting greenlit – though more it seems because Sony were at the time pushing for a possible Spider-Gwen movie (as also seen in the Sony Wikileaks). And he did oversee Marvel TV, with Agent Carter, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones featuring female leads and black leads and a relatively diverse cast. But that’s because he sees the TV audience very differently.

    I did report some of the outrageously homophobic statements he made to Bob Harras and his actions to Eric Ellenbogen at the time which were beyond the pale, and there’s no walking back from those. Although some, like his serious policy of removing couches from Marvel offices in order to “save marriages” as being comically naive.

    The books are still to be written about Perlmutter.

    1. Claire Napier

      May 5, 2017 at 11:31 am

      Isn’t the guy at the top paid more because he takes responsibility for everything below him? Such as other people’s unpopular decisions?

      1. Alexis Sergio

        May 5, 2017 at 11:48 am

        Exactly if your at the top then every choice below you is your fault. If you get to take credit for the good you have to take it for the bad.

  2. Heidi MacDonald

    May 8, 2017 at 1:56 am

    You left out the best known part of Perlmutter’s legacy – his legendary cheapness.

    Perlmutter’s donations to NYU go back a long time before the new pavilion. (A similar NYU facility named after previous Marvel owner Ronald Perelman is not far away, ironically.) He and his wife were widely known for donating before the Cancer Center opened, partly, I’m guessing, because it’s Laura’s pet charity and also, a good tax break.

    1. Claire Napier

      May 8, 2017 at 9:30 am

      The cheapness is implicit in the “became a billionaire off the backs of people who need charity to not die” thing, I figured…

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