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

RAYMOND PERELMAN DOESN’T smile in pictures.

If you look at the myriad photos of him and Ruth splashed on the society pages of the Inquirer or on websites like, he appears almost exactly the same in each, wearing an expression that registers somewhere between bored and resigned. With his perpetual hangdog look and rubbery face, he bears an odd resemblance to character actor Al Molinaro, probably best known for his role as Al, the owner of Arnold’s Diner on the 1970s sitcom Happy Days. Beside him — always beside him — in the photos stands Ruth, in a conservative tailored suit or demure gown, her own face bemused and faintly regal.

Raymond is currently bunkered in his winter home in Florida, where during this, “high season,” he and Ruth would normally be making their regular rounds through the snowbird social scene. But Ruth has been conspicuously and unusually absent from Palm Beach this year, instead reportedly holed up in her duplex on Rittenhouse Square, no doubt stewing in her Pellegrino and wondering how her little idea back in 1989 — the one that was supposed to bind her family together forever — went so wrong.

Jeffrey and Marsha seem to be attempting to carry on as usual, making a highly public appearance together at January’s annual Academy Ball. They’ve also been rallying troops to their defense, perhaps realizing that if the case of Perelman v. Perelman drags on, they’re going to need a little help from their friends. Steven Altschuler, the CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia — where Jeffrey sits on the board and the oncology unit is named for him and Marsha — says he wouldn’t hesitate to attest to the couple’s “incredible integrity”; Anne Hamilton calls Jeffrey “one of my very best friends.”

In the interim, the lawyers are busy lawyering, racking up billable hours paid for by all of that Perelman money. Steve Cozen sent this magazine a standard response of “Raymond Perelman declines to comment on what should be a private family matter”; James Smith at Blank Rome didn’t return a call (though the firm’s chipper PR guy, the appropriately named Topper Ray, did). In the Perelmans’ seeming quest to drag every white shoe law firm in Philadelphia into this soap opera, Ruth has apparently and mysteriously retained her own counsel: Joe Jacovini, of Dilworth Paxson. (He also didn’t return calls for comment.) And remember, we haven’t seen Ron’s team yet. (For the moment, Cozen is defending him.) It’s enough to make you wonder if a séance will be held to resurrect Howard Gittis.

How all of this will eventually be adjudicated remains unclear, though it seems likely that sooner or later, the suits will be relegated jointly to either federal court or state court, rather than moving along on their two parallel paths. The whole matter could be settled next week or drag on for years. With the Perelmans, you never know.