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

Predictably, that’s not quite the way Jeffrey remembers it. In his suit, he contends that at the age of 92, Raymond is simply a bitter old man trying to rewrite the rules he signed onto in 1990, and — egged on by Ron — is now waging a Perelman esque slash and burn campaign against him and Marsha. “It’s been very hard on them, because they’re very peaceful, and they live a quiet life, and they just want to be generous and happy,” says Liz Dow, the president and CEO of the civic organization Leadership Philadelphia and a close friend of Jeffrey and Marsha’s. “And this is hard and disruptive. They’re under attack.”

In his filing, Jeffrey lays out the scenario of Ruth’s idea and the deal it led to, including the formation of the trust. While Raymond “now claims belatedly that he expected the Trust to be established with Jeffrey’s daughter and the daughter’s future issue as the sole beneficiaries, and that all of the income of the Trust for the last 20 years should have remained in the Trust for them,” Jeffrey asserts that “the clear and unambiguous provisions of the Agreement of Trust state that Jeffrey is the beneficiary during his lifetime and has the right to control the income in the Trust.” In sum, Jeffrey argues that in order for Raymond to get what he insisted on having — no tax burden from the deal, and no scrutiny from the IRS — the trust had to be structured the way it was. Jeffrey also refutes the assertion that Marsha was to renounce her interest in all of the assets transferred. “Simply put,” he says, “that was never the deal.”

Jeffrey says there was no way Raymond didn’t understand what he was signing. “As a savvy, sophisticated and successful businessman with almost 50 years of experience at the time, he fully understood the terms and conditions of each document.”

So in sum, it comes down to this: Did Jeffrey pull a fast one and structure the trust differently than he had originally agreed to with Raymond, so he could get his hands on his daughter’s money? Or did Raymond fully understand from day one the deal he’d struck to make peace in the family, then stew about it for years until it exploded into a vendetta against Jeffrey and Marsha?

A judge will likely decide. Until then, it’s every Perelman for himself. “Listen, we all have disputes in our families,” says socialite Anne Hamilton, who has served on various charity boards with Marsha. “I know there’s something going on, and the only thing I can say is that I hope it all works out. Because in the end, someone always gets hurt.”