Meshulam Riklis, a billionaire businessman best known as the husband of actress Pia Zadora and the fulcrum of a Golden Globes scandal in the 1980s, has died in a Tel Aviv hospital, according to his family. He was 95.
Reclusive billionaire Meshulam Riklis pioneered the leveraged buyout and junk bond transactions, and developed a remarkable knack for complicated paper trades between various companies under his ownership, which critics have claimed made his debts disappear at opportune moments. Outside of financial circles he is perhaps best known for bankrolling Butterfly, a poorly-received 1981 drama with incestuous plot overtones starring his then-wife Pia Zadora, and for providing a lavish junket to Las Vegas for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, to secure her that year's Golden Globe Award as New Star of the Year.
Riklis was born in Turkey while his Russian parents were en route to Israel, raised in Tel Aviv, and came to America as a young man. He studied mathematics at Ohio State University and took work as a junior stock analyst at Piper Jaffray. In 1956 he purchased sufficient stock to take control of Rapid Electrotype Company (a platemaking concern) and American Colortype Company (maker of stereoview lithographs and dollhouse furniture), which were merged to become Rapid-American Corporation. Through a subsequent blizzard of acquisitions, sales, and debt and stock swaps, Rapid American came to control small but profitable sectors of the apparel, merchandising, tire, and Christmas card industries. In 1960 Rapid American acquired a half-interest in United Stores and control of its subsidiary McCrory-McLellan-Green, parent firm to three dime store chains, McCrory Stores, McLellan's, and H. L. Green. Rebranding these 850 stores under the McCrory name, Riklis made the united chain profitable, then returned to college, where he earned a Master's degree in Finance with a thesis titled "Expansion through Financial Management", on "the effective use, or rather non-use, of cash", based on his own career.
In 1980 he reorganized his properties under a new privately-held entity, Riklis Family Corp., and the firm's subsequent holdings have at times (sometimes quite briefly) included Aunt Nellie's Farm Kitchens, Bargain Time, Beatrice Food Ingredients, Culligan International, Canadian retailer Dylex, E-II Holdings, Elizabeth Arden cosmetics, Faberge toiletries, International Playtex, J. J. Newberry stores, Lerner Shops, Lowrey's Meat Specialties, Martha White Foods, Odd Lot Trading, the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas, RKO-Stanley Warner Theatres, Samsonite, Schenley Industries, and the one-time American distributor of Dewar's whisky. According to a 2002 report in Forbes, six major firms controlled by Riklis Family Corp. declared bankruptcy in the 1990s and early 2000s, leaving total debts in excess of $2.9B.
Survivors include Tali Sinai, who he married in 2010; two children from his first marriage, Marcia and Ira; and two children from his marriage to Zadora, Kady and Kristofer. Another daughter, Mona Ackerman, died in 2012.more » « less