Revlon Inc. Chairman Ronald Perelman, who tried unsuccessfully this week to buy a 12 percent stake in Salomon Inc., thinks the Wall Street firm has given too sweet a deal to Omaha investor Warren Buffett.

But that didn't stop Perelman from announcing yesterday that he plans to buy stock in Salomon. Consciously or not, Perelman is joining the ranks of Buffett-watchers around the country who try to profit by following the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman into deals.

While the terms of Buffett's Salomon deal -- he has agreed to pay $700 million for high yielding preferred stock that gives him a 12 percent stake in the firm -- are not available to ordinary investors, Buffett's offer and Perelman's response already have pushed the price of Salomon stock up nearly $5 a share this week to $36.88.

Buffett loyalists in Washington must have been among those surprised by his deal with Salomon, given the investor's stated views about Wall Street.

"If a graduating MBA were to ask me, 'How do I get rich in a hurry?' I would not respond with quotations from Ben Franklin or Horatio Alger, but would instead hold my nose with one hand and point with the other toward Wall Street," Buffett wrote in a Washington Post editorial last December.

Buffett, whose ability to pick stocks for long-term investment has made him one of the richest independent investors in the country, may still be holding his nose with one hand. But he has reached for his wallet with the other.

His deal with Salomon Inc., parent of the giant investment banking and securities brokerage firm Salomon Brothers, calls for Buffett to pay $700 million for preferred stock yielding a 9 percent annual dividend. The preferred can be converted into common stock at $38 a share after three years -- an option, if exercised, that would make Buffett Salomon's largest stockholder. The guaranteed 9 percent return and the option to buy Salomon stock at $38 is even better for Buffett, chairman of diversified Berkshire Hathaway Inc., than it would be for an individual investor. That's because Buffett is expected to buy the Salomon shares through corporations. And corporations do not have to pay taxes on 80 percent of their dividend income.

Perelman thought the deal was so good that he offered to match it in all respects, except Revlon proposed to pay $42 a share for Salomon stock, a richer deal for Salomon. But Salomon's board rejected the proposal, saying it preferred an association with Buffett.

On a philosophical level, the marriage between Buffett and a major Wall Street firm is surprising. The big Wall Street firms have profited enormously from the deal-making spree that has accompanied the boom in corporate takeovers as well as from the creation of new, exotic options and futures contracts. Buffett repeatedly has criticized this short-term orientation, likening it to casino gambling.

"Wall Street likes to characterize the proliferation of frenzied financial games as a sophisticated, pro-social activity, facilitating the fine-tuning of a complex economy," Buffett wrote last year. "But the truth is otherwise: Short-term transactions frequently act as an invisible foot kicking society in the shins."

Buffett has even gone so far as to propose a major change in the tax laws that would diminish profits in the short-run for Salomon Brothers and every other major firm on Wall Street.

To eliminate short-term speculation in the financial markets, Buffett has proposed a 100 percent tax on profits made on stock held for less than one year, a move predicted to diminish trading volume and brokerage fees.

"I've not suggested taking a poll," Buffett joked this week when asked how he thought his tax proposal would be received at Salomon, where Buffett will become a director. "They know what I am about."

Buffett said he stands behind all of the statements he has made about Wall Street and the tax, but also suggested that while he is still holding his nose when he looks at some of the other Wall Street firms, he likes what he sees at Salomon.

Buffett also said that like his successful long-term investments in the stocks of Geico Corp., Washington Post Co. and Capital Cities/ABC Inc., the Salomon stake is one that he intends to hold indefinitely in support of current management, particularly Salomon's chairman, John Gutfreund.

"This is consistent with our other big investments," Buffett said. "We like big investments around here. I like having a few things where I have a lot of confidence in the people involved and where we can sit forever. We had three positions before {Geico, Washington Post, Cap Cities} and now we will have four."

Buffett said his investment in Salomon was dictated more by outside events than by his evaluation of the short-term prospects on Wall Street or at Salomon.

The key was Salomon's need for cash to buy a 14 percent block of its stock from South Africa-based Anglo-American Corp., a move designed to keep the shares out of the hands of corporate raider Perelman.

Salomon is in the midst of a major management evaluation that is expected to lead to a substantial shift in its business strategy and possibly a reduction in employes.

In the sixth year of a bull market, Salomon and other Wall Street firms are generally perceived to be at or near the peak of a boom cycle.

"We're now beginning to fight the problems of margin squeeze, excess of personnel, overexpansion, at the same time that the deregulated environment around the world is spreading and competition by virtue of technology is spreading," Salomon's Gutfreund said. "These {challenges} to me are kind of fun because you're not just replaying the same story... . I think Warren must see it that way."

Buffett said Wall Street's cycles resemble the business of another company he owns: See's Candy Shops Inc. "The candy business is volatile, too," he said.

"We make money in December and don't make money at all in July. That doesn't mean it isn't a decent business."

Buffett was guarded when asked for his analysis of Salomon's financial prospects, an analysis that could provide clues to investors considering following him into the stock.

"It is a huge commitment," Buffett said. "We'll know in 10 years whether it was a great idea or not."