Ron Perelman Praises Technology And Preaches Disruption in Unprecedented Interview
Financier Ronald Perelman appeared on CNBC's Squawk Box for an exclusive live interview Thursday morning, marking the first time Perelman has given a live televised interview.
During the hour-long chat, Perelman discussed earnings, political views, future possibilities and announced his promise of $100 million to Columbia Business School.
In regards to his more than a dozen companies, he said that earnings growing, but that top-line growth has been difficult across every sector.
"I think it's an interesting time. I think overall our businesses are doing very well. Not in regard to revenue growth, but in regard to controlling expenses," said Perelman.
Companies like Revlon Cosmetics (NYSE: REV) are only going to grow two to three percent this year.
"Everything is around that level or flat," said Perelman.
He noted that there was no need to hire back the layoffs from 2008 and 2009 because of their increased efficiency and productivity, which is good for the operating companies but bad for unemployment rates. Perelman said that technology was what gave them the availability of increased productivity.
Perelman went on to say that he thinks that technology is key for opening up new markets while improving models.
"It's expanded our horizons and I think that's what's happening around the world. I mean, there's no longer a regional business, everything is a worldwide business," said Perelman.
That led to further discussion around the $100 Million pledge for a center for business innovation on Columbia's new campus in Manhattanville. He said that teaching disruption is key to the future of business. Technology is part of that disruption process.
"I think you can teach disruption. I think you can give a student the tools for which to be disruptive with, to think disruptively, to think change, to think innovation," said Perelman. "I think certain things are a certain kind of instinct, I think entrepreneurship is one of those. I think fashion sense is one of those things, and I think music is one of those. I mean, you've either got it or you don't have it."
The new school will also monitor the success rates of their business students in many ways, charting entrepreneurs and including the success of their students' global footprint.
Perelman is happy to make the investment. He called New York his city, after living there for over 30 years, he sees this development on Columbia's Manhattanville campus as an investment in the city. He said that one day, New York City could rival Silicon Valley.
As for Perelman's future, he says that he's looking for longterm investments that can be grown over time. He stated that he's buying synergistically, and that there are are great opportunities in combining several businesses and getting more efficient by laying off excess employees. He also confirmed that he will buy a business at $1 billion or more in the future.
Perelman said that as a businessman, he thinks that Washington is both an issue and a hurdle, and directly connected healthcare reform to part of that difficulty. He also said that Washington is making things too complicated and costly, and that it slows the system down. In regards to Obama, he thinks that despite his intelligence, he lacks focus, force and direction.
He also believes that banks shouldn't be limited in growth, but limited in scope of activities that they can participate in. In essence, better regulation trumps limitations in his mind.
"It's very, very difficult, to say to an enterprise, be it a banking enterprise or anybody: You can't grow any bigger. I mean, I think that's sort of silly," said Perelman.
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