A. Jerrold Perenchio, a Hollywood mogul who once represented Hollywood stars such as Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, promoted sports extravaganzas including the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier “Fight of the Century,” and led the Spanish-language television network Univision, died May 24 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 86.
The cause was lung cancer, his business office said in a statement.
For decades, Mr. Perenchio (pronounced puh-RENCH-ee-oh) was one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood, yet he was also perhaps the most secretive, refusing all requests for interviews — and once firing a top executive who was featured in a laudatory profile in the New York Times.
After representing top actors in the 1960s, Mr. Perenchio brokered such high-profile events as 1971 Ali-Frazier fight and the celebrated 1973 tennis “Battle of the Sexes” between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
Frazier won the boxing match, King won the tennis match, and Mr. Perenchio walked away with millions of dollars.
Later, he established production companies with sitcom developers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin. After Mr. Perenchio became chairman and chief executive of Univision in 1992, he helped propel it into the fifth-most-watched network in the United States.
Despite his penchant for privacy, Mr. Perenchio — whose net worth was estimated at $2.8 billion by Forbes magazine — lived in one of the most extravagant mansions in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. In earlier years, the house was featured in “The Beverly Hillbillies” as the home of the Clampett clan.
Mr. Perenchio’s closest neighbor was former first lady Nancy Reagan. He was a trustee of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute and in 2008 served as national finance co-chair for John McCain’s presidential campaign. He also was a major contributor to the short-lived 2016 presidential campaign of Republican Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard.
“Jerry is the walking embodiment of the history of Hollywood and modern Los Angeles,” Henry Cisneros, a former Univision president and secretary of housing and urban development under President Bill Clinton, told the Los Angeles Times in 2006. “He has been present in the worlds of many of the most prominent people.”
Mr. Perenchio got his start in 1958 at MCA, the talent agency run by Lew Wasserman, a behind-the-scenes power in Hollywood. Among other things he learned from Wasserman was a guiding principle that Mr. Perenchio listed as No. 1 on a set of rules he distributed to his business executives: “Stay clear of the press: no interviews, no panels, no speeches, no comments. Stay out of the spotlight — it fades your suit.”
In the 1960s, Mr. Perenchio launched his first business, the talent agency Chartwell Artists, and managed the careers of actors Brando, Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as singers Andy Williams and Glen Campbell. He later helped launch the career of Elton John.
With sports entrepreneur Jack Kent Cooke, who owned the Washington Redskins and other franchises, Mr. Perenchio put up an unheard-of $5 million guarantee for the Ali-Frazier fight, which took place at New York’s Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971. They recouped their investment by selling tickets for closed-circuit theater presentations of the fight for as much as $30. Cooke and Mr. Perenchio pocketed an estimated $5 million apiece.
Two years later, Mr. Perenchio engineered the tennis matchup between King and Riggs, which became one of the most-watched TV events of the 1970s and a landmark moment in women’s rights.
Mr. Perenchio had a knack for spotting good investments in the entertainment world. In 1974, he teamed with Lear and Yorkin on a company that produced several hit shows, including “The Jeffersons,” “One Day at a Time” and “Who’s the Boss?” and helped the producers earn millions through syndication.
In 1981, he and Lear bought a struggling movie and TV studio, Avco-Embassy, for $25 million — then sold it four years later, as the home-video market began to emerge, for $485 million. With producer Richard Zanuck, Mr. Perenchio set up the production company that released “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), which won four Academy Awards, including one for best picture.
Mr. Perenchio then moved on to Univision, which he bought with a group of partners for $550 million in 1992. Even though he did not speak Spanish, he guided the company for 15 years, as it became the dominant Spanish-language network in the United States. When he sold Univision for $12.3 billion in 2007, Mr. Perenchio pocketed an estimated $1.3 billion.
Andrew Jerrold Perenchio was born Dec. 20, 1930, in Fresno, Calif. His father ran a winery.
Mr. Perenchio, who was a boxer in his youth, showed early acumen in business as a student at the University of California at Los Angeles. By the time he graduated in 1954, he ran a successful campus business that produced fraternity parties.
After serving in the Air Force, where he was a flight instructor, Mr. Perenchio joined MCA in the mail room. Before long, Wasserman installed him in the executive suite and impressed on his young protege the importance of discretion and control.
Like his old boss, Mr. Perenchio always wore sober dark suits and kept his secrets inside the business. His job was to earn enormous profits by making other people famous.
“I really don’t want my name in the goddamn paper,” Mr. Perenchio told the Los Angeles Times in 1981, in one of his few encounters with a reporter. “I really don’t mean to be rude. I just don’t want to give out interviews. I just hate them. Inevitably, I ended up hurting some people or leaving some names out, or getting quoted out of context.”
Mr. Perenchio’s first two marriages, to Robin Green and Jackie Thaxton, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 29 years, the former Margaret McHugh of Los Angeles; three children from his first marriage; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
In 1969, Mr. Perenchio made one of his first big deals when he introduced two potential buyers to the owner of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. After the casino was sold, Mr. Perenchio collected $800,000 for an afternoon of work.
Despite his aversion to publicity, he was known for his sometimes lavish parties. His poker-playing buddies reportedly included CBS chief executive Les Moonves and actor Dustin Hoffman, among others.
Mr. Perenchio spent more than 50 years amassing an art collection that included works by painters Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Paul Cézanne. In 2014, he agreed to donate his collection, valued at $500 million, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He also pledged $25 million toward a new building to house the collection.