Don King remembers Caesars owner Clifford S. Perlman

September 7, 2016

 

 

Clifford "Cliff" S. Perlman, the former President and CEO of Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas passed away on Sept. 5. He was 90 years old. 

Perlman served at the helm of Caesars for more than a decade, and during his ownership he was the first to introduce live sports events and boxing in Las Vegas, working with iconic boxing promoter Don King.

“Cliff Perlman and myself made Caesars Palace, arguably, a household name around the world. And you had a lot of guys that were there that came from that, working together closely with Caesars Palace, and another genius out there in Las Vegas, Steve Wynn. And Steve Wynn, you know, he was just great. He had a little piece of land next to Caesars, a gas station there, about 10 acres. And he manipulated it and maneuvered that 10 acres into building up Downtown Las Vegas with the Golden Nugget, and became one of the most formidable figures in gaming,” stated King.

 

“I loved the man Cliff Perlman. When he was around they used to call it Sin City and they used to call it all these different things, but for entertainment and sports beyond the normal, there would be something that would be what we call in the ghetto S.K.D.— something kinda different—Las Vegas fit the bill. Entertainment and sports capital of the world,” King continued

 

“In this world most people promise you everything and give you nothing. Cliff Perlman was the exact opposite. He not only gave you what he promised you, but he gave you more.”

 

Perlman was also instrumental in building thousands of additional rooms to what is the current Caesars Palace. Along with his brother Stuart, they founded the international fast food franchise Lum's and bought, sold, and operated an airline.

Perlman, prior to his death, spent his time between his residences in Beverly Hills and Miami.

Perlman was born March 30, 1926, in Philadelphia, where he attended primary and secondary school. In 1943, he joined the U.S. Army, stationed at Camp Blanding, Florida, and subsequently joined the 86th Infantry Division, Perlman was shipped to the European Theater, 1944, and served through the end of the war. Perlman was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, three Battle Stars and the Bronze Star.

Returning from the war, Perlman enrolled at the University of Miami in 1947, and the University of Miami School of Law, 1948. He was the founding member of the Bar and Gavel Legal Society and editor of the first law school newspaper, The Barrister. He was admitted to federal and state bars in 1951. He practiced law for nine years under the firm name Perlman, Litman and Sponder.

 

In 1956, Perlman and his brother Stuart founded the first store of fast food chain LUMS Inc. in Miami Beach, Florida. Lum's was founded for $12,000. With Clifford commanding and Stuart executing, they had within a couple of years established a 389-unit franchise chain that spanned Canada, Puerto Rico, and 29 American states.

Perlman and his brother also owned Dirr's Gold Seal Meats, a business large enough to supply the Lum's chain with 25 percent of its packed meat products while keeping other eateries stocked as well. Their third subsidiary, Dade Wholesale Products, was their only concern outside the food industry. Dade owned an 86-unit string of Eagle Army-Navy Discount Stores, which grew to 111 stores under Perlman stewardship.

The three businesses combined to bring Lum's sales for 1969 totalling $23.2 million, yielding a net income of $2.8 million—too small a bankroll to meet the $60 million purchase price of Caesars Palace. Clifford Perlman then sold both Dade and Dirr's in 1970, raising $8.5 million and $5 million respectively — more than enough to supply the $2 million escrow that was part of the deal between their company and Jay Sarno.

The Perlmans sold the company in 1971 to John Brown of Kentucky Fried Chicken. At the time of sale, the company owned and franchised over 400 stores in the U.S., Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Europe.

 

In 1969, under the ownership of Perlman and his brother, Lum's, Inc. purchased Caesars Palace, a 500-room hotel casino on the famous Las Vegas Strip, for $60 million. They renamed the casino Caesar's World. This was the first publicly held company to enter the casino industry in Las Vegas. The transaction was approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission in August 1969. The terms of agreement also stipulated that $30 million would be paid to Sarno during the first year, that the $28 million outstanding would be whittled down by a $9.5 million payment in 1971, and that the rest, at 5.5 percent interest, was to be paid in equal installments over the next three years.

In his 13 years as President and CEO of Caesars Palace, Perlman established his casino as Las Vegas's most prominent and himself as a gaming innovator. He oversaw the business's expansion from a hotel with 550 rooms and pre-tax revenues of $5.8 million to a conglomerate with 1,750 rooms and more than $82 million in pre-tax revenue. While in charge at Caesars Palace, it became known as one of the great entertainment and casino gaming hotels in the world. Caesars Palace was the first Las Vegas casino to implement an organized overseas marketing strategy, opening offices in Mexico City, Mexico, Caracas, Venezuela, and Hong Kong, as well as marketing efforts in Australia and Japan.

During Perlman's tenure the vastly popular entertainer Frank Sinatra played at the casino for over 10 years, the longest continuous engagement of his career. In association with fight promoter Don King, Caesars Palace Las Vegas also hosted major boxing events from 1975 to 1982, including some of history's most famous. Perlman once instructed "If there is no room to host it the event set it up in the parking lot". Over 25,000 people attended boxing events in the parking lot at Caesars in 1979, an unheard of figure for those times. Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino also acquired a Formula One Racing event, hosted by Paul Newman, that was held in Las Vegas for five years and initiated the Alan King Tennis Classic.

 

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