Media mogul Jerry Perenchio dies at 86
Los Angeles — Jerry Perenchio was a media mogul, billionaire former owner of Univision and the producer behind a slew of hit shows and sporting events but his house appeared more often on TV than he did.
Perenchio was famously publicity-shy. The first item on his list of 20 rules for subordinates was “stay clear of the press.” But his Bel Air mansion was seen every week as the home of the Clampett family on the 1960s series “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Perenchio, 86, died Tuesday of lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles, his wife, Margaret, said Wednesday.
“Jerry Perenchio had a big vision and a bigger heart — he always gave back,” Arnold Schwarzenegger posted on Twitter Wednesday. “He was an example to all of us and I was proud to call him my friend.”
Ron Howard used his Twitter account to call Perenchio “a gracious and brilliant mentor.”
Perenchio’s half-century in the entertainment business included talent agent, sports promoter, television and motion picture tycoon but he preferred to work behind the scenes.
His wealth, recently estimated by Forbes at $2.8 billion, allowed him to be a generous political donor and philanthropist. He contributed some $50 million to candidates and causes and tens of millions more to schools, hospitals, museums and charities of all types.
He amassed a significant art collection that included work by Picasso, Cezanne and Monet and in 2014 announced he would bequeath 47 pieces — worth an estimated $500 million — to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He also donated $25 million for a new building to house it.
“He was one of the most generous people whom I’ve ever met, and yet, in a town where everyone wants to take credit for everything, he refused to take credit for a lifetime of achievements,” Mark Gold, former head of the nonprofit environmental group Heal the Bay and now an associate vice chancellor at UCLA, told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “He was really quite extraordinary.”
Scion of a Fresno winemaking family, Andrew Jerry Perenchio wore many hats during a half-century in the entertainment business.
He turned to show business after attending UCLA and serving in the Air Force as a jet pilot and flight instructor.
In the late 1950s he became a talent agent with Music Corp. of America, the legendary agency run by Lew Wasserman. He went on to start his own agency, later merging it with another and representing movie and music stars such as Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Williams and Glen Campbell.
As a sports promoter he helped engineer the 1971 “Fight of the Century” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier as well as the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” between tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
The 1970s also saw him join Norman Lear to produce and distribute hits such as “The Jeffersons,” ‘’Diff’rent Strokes” and “One Day at a Time.”
Lear once described his partner, who handled the business end of things, as a man of great creativity and vision.
“The world has lost a glorious, most generous man and an absolute original. There will never ever be another him,” Lear said in a statement Wednesday.
Perenchio also provided financial muscle or savvy for such 1980s classic movies as “Blade Runner” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”
In 1992, Perenchio and two Latin American media tycoons bought Univision, then a struggling Spanish-language network. He became chairman and chief executive as the company, which today is the fifth-largest network in the United States — before selling it in 2006 and reaping a personal paycheck of over $1 billion.
Perenchio seldom ventured into the limelight.
“I really don’t want my name in the goddamn paper,” he once told the Los Angeles Times.
His list of 20 “Rules of the Road” for Univison executives included rule No. 1: “Stay Clear of the Press. No Interviews, No Panels, No Speeches, No comments. Stay Out of the Spotlight - It Fades Your Suit.”
No. 20 was: “Always, Always take the High Road. Be Tough but Fair and Never Lose Your Sense of Humor.”
Perenchio used some of his fortune on property, at one point becoming among the largest landholders in Malibu.
He bought his Bel Air mansion in the 1980s and last year paid $15 million for the home of late neighbors Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
In politics, Perenchio backed mainly Republican and conservative causes. He was national financial co-chair for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign; supported Schwarzenegger’s successful run for California governor and contributed more than $3 million to Carly Fiorina’s 2016 presidential bid.
However, he also supported some Democrats, including Sen. Diane Feinstein and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his charitable giving extended to AIDS and gay service and environmental groups.
He also opposed a 1998 state initiative to limit bilingual education in schools.