By - Anthony Ramirez

(FORTUNE Magazine) – REVLON CHAIRMAN Ronald Owen Perelman has a penchant for contrasts: a tangy personal life and the practice of Judaism, fancy restaurants and junk food, earsplitting rock music aboard his corporate jet and long, pensive walks around Manhattan. But there is nothing paradoxical about his head for business. Says Fred Tepperman, Revlon's chief financial officer: ''He reads numbers like a novel.'' Perhaps it takes a man of many contrasts to see the logic in a giant crazy- quilt operation (estimated 1986 sales: $3 billion plus) that includes, or once included, a jewelry store chain, an industrial chocolate wholesaler, the world's largest producer of licorice extract, the company that gives many Hollywood films their vivid color, a major cigar maker, a videocassette duplicator, a chain of supermarkets, and, after a bitter $1.8-billion takeover battle in 1985, Revlon Inc., the cosmetics mass-marketer that is one of the world's most famous brand names. Late in 1986 Perelman, 43, flabbergasted Wall Street with nearly simultaneous attempts to take over three giant companies: Transworld, a hotelier and food vendor; CPC International, a food processor; and Gillette, the vast razor blade and toiletries concern. He settled on a $4.1-billion bid for Gillette, which would have more than doubled the Perelman empire's assets. Because of the Boesky scandal and Gillette's countermoves, the company eluded Perelman's grasp. But the bid proved that Perelman aims to become an even bigger power in the $20-billion-a-year cosmetics and toiletries business and to keep zeroing in on companies that he considers undervalued and undermanaged. His critics consider Perelman a corporate raider and greenmailer; he pocketed $75 million from his runs at CPC and Gillette. Perelman counters that he always intends to buy the companies he stalks, not to make a killing in their stock. He says his rise in the world of takeovers has not been dependent on Drexel Burnham Lambert, though that investment banking firm has raised about $2 billion in junk bond financing for him. While he has often announced that Drexel will raise the bulk of the money for a takeover bid, in the end he generally does the deal with a blend of his companies' own cash, bank credit, and Drex-el junk bonds. The main advantage of Drexel is speed, says Howard Gittis, Revlon's vice chairman and Perelman's closest friend; Drexel once raised $730 million for Perelman in four days. Perelman has assembled a crack band of specialists to advise him on acquisitions. He single-mindedly follows The Recipe: Pick a large pool of undervalued assets (it doesn't matter what they are), buy it (or better yet, buy just enough to control it), keep the one or two reliable cash-flow generators, find superb operating managers to handle those cash spigots, reduce the rest of the assets to ready money, and use it to reduce your purchase cost. Leverage liberally to taste. Since Perelman became chairman of Revlon in late 1985, he has been busily ( trying to make over the indolent behemoth into something more comely. Under Michel Bergerac, founder Charles Revson's successor as chairman, ''beauty was treated as a stepchild,'' Perelman says. In his view management's attention wandered into laboratory equipment, prescription drugs, acne creams, and antacids. Big customers like department stores have complained of Revlon's arrogance and poor service. All that is changing, Perelman swears. He sold three businesses for $1.4 billion, kept a contact-lens maker and a chain of laboratories that do medical tests, and put the beauty business back on center stage. He promises that new beauty products, new advertising, and new marketing will restore the rouge to Revlon's cheeks in 1987. From 1980 to 1984 earnings slid dramatically, but the company expects operating profits to rise 20% in 1986 and again in 1987. Analyst Diana Temple of Salomon Brothers estimates that in 1986 Revlon will have operating profits of $195 million on sales of $1.7 billion. Though not as autocratic as Revson, Perelman has a hand in everything. He picked Susan Lucci, star of All My Children, to replace Dynasty's Joan Collins as Scoundrel perfume's new star. He chose photographer Richard Avedon to bring glamour to a new corporate ad campaign because he believes the company's magazine ads too often feature dour models. He oversaw a new TV campaign for Charlie, the venerable but fading fragrance aimed at young career women. He streamlined the bureaucracy: Where the process of bringing a new product to market once involved a dizzying 60 or so different forms, it now takes only one. PERELMAN'S is a riches-to-riches story. The first of two sons of a well-to- do Philadelphia family, he apprenticed until age 35 in his father's business, a miniconglomerate called Belmont Industries. After getting a B.A. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from its Wharton School of Finance, he bought and sold companies as he does today, but on a smaller scale. For example, he sold off a galvanizing firm and a shoe manufacturer, then acquired a small, troubled bank that he revived and eventually sold. Says Perelman's father, Raymond: ''When Ronnie was a boy, whenever I was thinking of making an acquisition, we would drive out to look at the company and discuss the pluses and minuses together.'' Recognizing that it would be some time before he could head the family business, young Perelman left the firm in 1978. Just as well, daddy says, because he would never have permitted Ronald to leverage himself so highly or to use junk bond financing. On his own and hitting his stride, Perelman engineered a remarkable series of acquisitions that parlayed a $2-million investment in Cohen-Hatfield Industries, a small jewel ry distributor, into his present billions-inrevenue empire, including 100% ownership of MacAndrews & Forbes, which in turn owns 33% of Revlon. IF PERELMAN'S business life has seemed to advance like clockwork, his private life has been considerably less orderly. His first marriage, to Faith Golding of a wealthy New York City real estate family, ended in a messy divorce after she discovered that Perelman was having an affair with a florist. She got a Park Avenue apartment and $10 million. By all accounts his second marriage, to Claudia Cohen in 1985, is happy, if characteristically paradoxical: Perelman professes to hate publicity, yet Cohen is a former gossip columnist for the New York Post and an entertainment reporter on local television. Their wedding reception was at Palladium, a trendy Manhattan dance club, where the Pointer Sisters belted out hit songs to dozens of well-heeled guests. Perelman accompanies Cohen to some of the best-publicized events in Manhattan, such as a recent Actors Studio benefit with The Color of Money stars Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. The two Perelmans co-chaired. ''The glitz is exaggerated,'' insists Donald Drapkin, a takeover lawyer and a close friend. Drapkin says that Perelman prefers to have dinner with Claudia or one of his four teenage children from his first marriage and is usually in bed by 10 P.M. Several times a day Perelman goes for walks in midtown Manhattan, alone or with a friend. He refuses to discuss his religion. A member of the Orthodox Fifth Avenue Synagogue, he keeps a strictly kosher household and does no work on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Less religious friends and associates simply adjust their schedules to his. Though Perelman rejects the corporate raider label, another multibillion- dollar acquisition attempt is surely in his future. Someone who knows him well says his real ambition is to become the premier industrialist of his generation. To that, Perelman puffs on his cigar and says, ''I'm still a young man. We'll see.''