Friday, October 26, 2012

JON SALISBURY: 'A man to Marvel'

                                                          Jon Salisbury
One individual’s personal contribution to the toy business grabs our columnist’s attention this month.

One such individual’s dramatic personal contribution has been as curator of a pantheon of comic book characters that now pepper movie theatres worldwide and are responsible for shedloads of spin-off toys desired by children everywhere. As its chief executive, Ike (Isaac) Perlmutter sold Marvel Entertainment to Walt Disney Co in 2009, making him one of the largest individual shareholders in that entertainment conglomerate.

Just look at the impressive catalogue of characters of his that have been reaping big box office dollars: X-Men, Hulk, Iron Man, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Captain America. The Avengers became Disney’s biggest hit of the year generating $1.5 billion at the box office worldwide, while Thor and Captain America earned a further $800 million globally, making Disney’s $4 billion purchase of Marvel in 2009 seem truly inspired. Further sequels to Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers are still to come. Although said to be highly influential at Disney, he has steadfastly refused to take a seat on the board.

Now 69 years old, Perlmutter arrived in New York aged 24 with $250 to his name and is now ranked among the 500 wealthiest Americans, worth $1.9 billion. Coleco, who many ToyNews readers will recall as the original maker of Cabbage Patch dolls, attracted Perlmutter’s interest in 1988. As Coleco teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, Perlmutter and a business partner bought $90 million worth of debt for $50 million. After a lengthy battle with creditors, Coleco’s assets were sold to Hasbro and other buyers for a total of $150 million and Perlmutter walked away with a cool $70 million.

Marvel completely reinvented itself, launching its own studio, which guaranteed greater creative control over films featuring its characters and also gave it power over scheduling, so that licensed merchandise like toys could be released to coincide with a movie.

But few readers will have had contact with Perlmutter. Said to be intensely private about his security, he even attended the 2008 Iron Man premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre wearing a moustache and wig to avoid being recognised by photographers.

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