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Ike Perlmutter – Getting Away With It All This Time

Has Ike Perlmutter been getting away with running Marvel Comics and being Trump's biggest donor all this time - and Marvel too?

I was reading about boycotts being planned against American fast-food chain Wendy's. After it was revealed that hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of contributions were made to Donald Trump's campaign by James Bodenstedt. He's the CEO of Muy! Companies, which owns hundreds of Wendy's, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut franchises across the country. I also wondered how Marvel Comics dodged a bullet. Because Marvel chairman Ike Perlmutter has, with his wife Laura Perlmutter, contributed millions to Donald Trump's election campaign and his foundation. Such was their largesse, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Trump would not have been elected at all without his good friend Ike. They dine together on Thanksgiving rather than with Trump's own family, Laura sat on his inauguration committee and Ike was appointed to the Veteran's Affairs department where he ran a shadow department with civilian businessmen with an attempt to privatize the service being offered by the department. Yet when Spider-Man appears above a Black Lives Matter rally he gets cheered.

Ike Perlmutter - Getting Away With It All This Time
Ike Perlmutter – Getting Away With It All This Time

Perlmutter has had quite the history, a war veteran of the Israeli Army, he travelled to the US where he began selling toys, ended up setting up Toy Biz which licensed characters from Marvel. His company was bought by Marvel putting Perlmutter on the board, During the Marvel bankruptcy and reorganisation he was elevated to chairman. From that point, he swivelled the company to making its own movies rather than just licensing the rights and began with Iron Man. He was the deciding figure in the sale of Marvel to Disney, netting him a billion dollars out of the four billion dollar sale, adding to his existing billion. This started to give him a greater public profile, even as he continued to avoid the camera, interviews, any kind of accountability. All the while, the stories grew. And there was a theme.

The Money Man

Most complaints about Perlmutter have revolved around his attitude to money. I have been told that some of these events are theatrical in nature, intended to send a wider message to the audience at whichever company he barrels through. He famously went through people waste paper baskets to find discarded paper clips and would rip up waste paper into squares and insist people reuse them as notepaper.  There was the claim made that he had banned couches from the office to save people's marriages, seemingly ignorant of what people can get up to on desks. That he always carries a gun, concealed under his jacket, even in the offices. That he fires people on a whim, just to see if their job was necessary or not. There was also the cancellation of the Fantastic Four comic and licensing, and the reduction of the prominence of the X-Men due to his falling out with Fox Studios in negotiation over the film rights they owned, and over his issues with Drew Goddard… but with all the controversy came the acknowledgement that, with his success the success of the publisher and studio, that Perlmutter had done something really right, and that it was hard to bet against him. Also, he brought things under budget.

There have been plenty of uncomfortable details in the light of the alleged statement to then-Marvel-editor-in-chief Bob Harras that if his children turned out to be gay that he should kill them. Bob is now EIC at Marvel's biggest rival, DC. It was alleged that he tried to strangle out gay editor Eric Ellenbogen in the offices after firing him, only for Eric to keep coming into the office, per his contract.  His battles with publisher Bill Jemas came to a head over the Rawhide Kid series that had recreated the classic Marvel Western character as a gay cowboy, with Ike claiming that the very existence of this project was akin to stealing from him. Jemas is now heading up a rival comics publisher in New York, AWA, and hired Axel Alonso, the Marvel EIC that Perlmutter fired.

Then there was Perlmutter's involvement in the movie side, seen as resisting diversification of Marvel's movie line, standing against Black Panther and Captain Marvel, in favour of The Inhumans. Bleeding Cool was the first place to highlight his private e-mails showing a rejection of female-lead superhero movies for poor financial returns, something Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel have refuted – though we did point out he was happier with more diverse television shows on the Marvel ticket, which had lead roles for Jessica Jones, Agent Carter, and Agents of SHIELD, as well as a black lead with Luke Cage.

There were also allegations from the movie side that Terrence Howard was dropped as Colonel Jim Rhodes from the Iron Man sequel, in favour of Don Cheadle, another black actor, hired for less money, with Perlmutter stating that no one would notice because black people "look the same". Disputed by a Perlmutter source, the FT also quoted a statement from Marvel saying "Mr. Perlmutter and all of Marvel have a long record of diversity in the workplace and on movie sets around the world as evidenced by both Mr. Perlmutter's own history and Marvel's management team."

The Mouse That Roared

As he moved into Disney, with similar cost-cutting zeal and belligerent bravado, he encountered some who would not put up with him, cue the legal suit launched against him by three female black Disney executives. The FT profiled Ike Perlmutter ripping through Disney's consumer products department making changes and that there were settlements that had to be negotiated.

In the past year Andy Mooney, chairman of the unit, has left. Several lieutenants followed, including three female executives who hired a lawyer to seek individual financial settlements. Separately, another senior female executive filed an internal complaint about Mr Perlmutter, alleging that he made threatening remarks to her. The woman eventually changed jobs at Disney.

… "All of Andy's direct reports have left," says a person with knowledge of the situation. Three female executives – all African-Americans – became part of the exodus and have since sought settlements. Anne Gates, the chief financial officer, left following Mr Chapek's reorganisation of the division. Pam Lifford, the head of fashion and home products, quit after her unit was closed. Both women were said to have been offered alternative roles with comparable pay in the company. Susan Cole Hill, an executive with DCP's HR department, left after her role was eliminated following the restructuring. The three women declined to comment. Ms Gates, Ms Lifford and Ms Cole Hill have hired Dan Stormer, a partner with the Pasadena law firm Hadsell, Stormer, Keeny, Richardson and Rennick, to negotiate separate exit settlements, say people close to the situation.

With Deadline following up, noting, that all three were African American women.

Sources now tell me that all three female executives in employments disputes with the Walt Disney Co have settled – including one today — many months after the women lost their jobs in a Department Of Consumer Products reorganization set in motion nearly a year ago by Marvel boss Ike Perlmutter who is Disney's 2nd largest shareholder. Former DCP head of fashion and home products Pam Lifford, former chief financial officer Anne Gates, and former DCP HR exec Susan Cole Hill were all represented by the same attorney with the Pasadena law firm Hadsell, Stormer, Keeny, Richardson and Rennick which has sued Disney in other employee rights cases.

Pamela Lifford is now in charge of Marvel's biggest rival, DC as President, Warner Bros. Global Brands and Experiences, and is the one credited with the big changes happening at DC right now.

Not that this monstrous reputation that Perlmutter was getting wasn't useful to Marvel. Bleeding Cool began to learn that some of the 'horror stories' reported were invented by Marvel executives for their own reasons. One notable occasion was the story that Ike ordered that Iron Man lose its planned female villain in favour of a male villain, citing increased toy sales. This appears to have been a story invented by those producing the film as a justification to make such a change and someone else for the cast and crew to blame.

The White House Of Ideas

But he has been able to use his role in Marvel in both his political and personal life. In a decades-long legal fight with fellow Palm Beach resident and millionaire Harold Peerenboom over control of the estate's tennis courts, Perlmutter admitted to sending anonymous news slipping to other residents against Peerenboom – but not subsequent emails which accused Peerenboom of vile crimes, rather suggested that Peerenboom sent them himself as a false flag operation.  It is alleged in court filings that Marvel employees were directed by Perlmutter to research dirt on Perenboom for the first series of mailings.

And now in recent days, the confirmation that it was Ike Perlmutter who used a Veteran's Day promotion for the Department Of Veterans Affairs campaign regarding suicide, to promote Marvel characters Captain America and Spider-Man at a New York Exchange bell-ringing event, much to the bemusement of the department.

Recently, Marvel Chair Ike Perlmutter received a Marvel demotion of sorts. His role with the movies was scaled back by Disney's Bob Iger and Alan Horn, the keys to the movie side handed to Kevin Feige. That was then extended to the whole creative side of Marvel, as Feige has taken much of the creative lead across Marvel as its new CCO. But Perlmutter's role regarding Marvel's financial decisions seems as firm as ever. He is known to cancel projects that show a whiff of not bringing in the cash – sometimes, before the project has had the chance to bring it all in, leading to a couple of minor reversals along the way. But his days of being able to make the Spider-Gwen comic book happen are gone.

Indeed, for one series of political donations, he listed his occupation as retired. Was that the end of Perlmutter at Marvel? Absolutely not, for the subsequent donations, he was back on top. And is looking just as good a friend to Donald Trump as ever with the Presidential Elections coming up.

It would also be remiss not to mention that Perlmutter has also been very generous when it comes to funding cancer health care and gender-affirming surgery providers as well as local food banks. But maybe that second one is not the kind of thing he brings up to Donald.

There have been attempts to draw attention to his actions and to shame him but nothing has come close to sticking. Ike Perlmutter must be grateful he went into toys and comics rather than burgers. Oh, and this is just Bleeding Cool and not Buzzfeed.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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