Perelmans at War

Most families squabble, but few do it quite like Philadelphia’s Perelmans. In a legal clash that includes allegations of stealing and duplicity, son Jeffrey is pitted against his tycoon father Raymond and his starlet-marrying, headline-grabbing brother Ron. One thing’s for sure: Thanksgiving at the Perelman house will never be the same

Ron went to Penn undergrad and Wharton for his MBA; ditto Jeffrey. Both went to work for Raymond, until each separately got sick of it (and him) and struck out on his own. Ron became an international sensation in New York, famous for his romantic dalliances and stormy, showy marriages: his last two were to Democratic Party fund raiser Patricia Duff, with whom he engaged in one of the nastiest custody battles ever recorded (during their divorce, he is alleged to have said, “I will destroy you, and I will enjoy it”), and actress Ellen Barkin, who reportedly won a cool $40 million in their 2006 divorce and another $4 million or so in a recent legal battle. Like him, she’s apparently comfortable in a courtroom.

But Jeffrey wasn’t about glitz — or conflict. Jeffrey stayed local until he, too, had had enough. When he returned from Colorado, he eventually settled in Wynnewood. He was the good Jewish son to Ruth, and a devoted dad to his daughter Alison. And unlike Ron, he had gotten married — in the mid ’70s — and stayed married, to a chic, savvy businesswoman in her own right. Marsha Perelman climbed the ladder of the male dominated oil and gas industry (in the early 1990s she was hired to head PGW, an offer that vanished in a typical cloud of City Hall politicking) while building her own impressive philanthropic résumé, one that includes stints as the president of the Zoo and the current chairmanship of the Franklin Institute. She’s also a strident animal rights activist; last year she confronted her next door neighbor, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, on his hiring of Michael Vick.

So perhaps it was simply inevitable that with such contrasting personalities within it, the family would one day split, that it would rupture and leave Raymond and Ron on one side and Jeffrey on the other, with Ruth the powerless Solomon. “It’s all just so sad,” says one veteran of the Main Line charity world who knows the family. “It makes you wonder, ‘Why?’”

Perhaps because they’re rich. Because they’re powerful. Or, simply, because they’re Perelmans.

ALISON PERELMAN IS, by all accounts, a smart, charming young woman. Like her mother, she is a dark eyed, raven haired beauty, and she bears the standard issue Main Line heiress credentials (high school at Baldwin, college at Princeton, apartment in a stylish Washington Square West condo). She’s now a 27 year old PhD student in communications at Penn, where the hospital’s Advanced Medicine building is named for her grandparents. A member of the Annenberg Graduate Council, last summer she traveled to Brisbane, Australia, to study the role of sports in reconciling aboriginal and non indigenous peoples; this month, she’ll present a paper at the annual conference of the Association of American Geographers in Washington, D.C. “One look at Ali tells you all you need to know about how loving, caring and careful her parents were with her upbringing,” says Anne Gordon, the former Inquirer managing editor and part of Marsha and Jeffrey’s inner circle.