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Timing is everything

Analysts say Univision's entrepreneurial owner is unloading the media giant when its value is high. It's a trick he's pulled over and over.

Published August 2, 2006

LOS ANGELES - The year was 1985, and Andrew Jerrold Perenchio was eyeing the kind of deal that eventually would help the onetime Hollywood agent, boxing promoter and entrepreneur become a billionaire twice over.

Perenchio bet that he could buy the Loews Theater chain for $160-million and flip it to film studios eager to own a piece of the movie house business.

The deal elicited doubt in Hollywood - had a keen dealmaker paid too much? Less than two years later, Perenchio sold the eight-state chain for a reported $300-million.

Now 75, Perenchio is poised for another wildly lucrative exit.

In June, he agreed to sell his biggest enterprise, Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications Inc., to a private investor group for $12.3-billion plus the assumption of $1.4-billion in debt.

Perenchio stands to make upward of $1-billion on a deal expected to close early next year. He's worth $2.9-billion, according to Forbes magazine.

"He doesn't make bad mistakes," said Hollywood producer Bud Yorkin, who was a business partner of Perenchio's in the 1970s and '80s. "He's always had kind of the proper timing - when to jump in and when to jump out."

Perenchio is not Hispanic and doesn't speak Spanish. He rarely speaks publicly. But his track record in business speaks volumes.

"Jerry is not the greatest talker in the world, he's just the greatest doer in the world," said longtime friend and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

Under Perenchio, Univision has prospered - in many markets, Univision stations regularly garner more viewers than English-language networks in prime time. The broadcaster's three television networks, local TV stations and other properties have grown into the most-popular media outlets for U.S. Hispanics, whose economic clout is projected to surpass $1-billion by the end of the decade, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

After 14 years heading Univision, his decision to sell has been largely seen as another instance of canny investment timing.

After a stint in the Air Force, the Fresno, Calif., native went to work as a theatrical agent for Music Corp. of America. When antitrust issues forced the company to sell its talent agency, Perenchio launched Chartwell Artists and landed Hollywood icons Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor.

In the 1970s, Perenchio ventured into sports entertainment by co-promoting the first clash of undefeated heavyweights Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Perenchio saw the brawl's potential and guaranteed a $5-million purse.

"It just knocked everybody over," said Bill Caplan, a longtime boxing publicist who worked for Perenchio in the mid 1970s.

In 1973, he promoted the Bobby Riggs-Billie Jean King tennis match. That year Perenchio became partners with Yorkin and Norman Lear after he helped manage the launch of soundtracks for two of the pair's big TV shows, All In the Family and Sanford & Son.

"We were building the company. We needed someone who knew what to do," said Yorkin, 80. "He was the one that did it all."

[Last modified August 2, 2006, 01:18:51]

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