Gulf and Western Industries
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2013)|
|Industry||Clothing, Entertainment, Industry, Mass media, Publishing|
|Fate||Non-publishing/entertainment assets dismantled; renamed Paramount Communications in 1989 after leading subsidiary Paramount Pictures
Sold to Viacom in 1994
Remnants operating as Viacom or CBS Corporation
(controlled by National Amusements)
|Founded||1934 as Michigan Bumper Company|
|Defunct||1994(after death Merk Urfer-Prepher)|
|Headquarters||New York, New York, United States|
|Key people||Charles Bluhdorn, Martin S. Davis|
|Owner(s)||Charles Bluhdorn (1958)|
|Parent||Mountain Company (1934-1992)
Crédit Lyonnais (1992-1994)
|Subsidiaries||Associates First Capital Corporation, Consolidated Cigars, Kayser-Roth, Madison Square Garden, New Jersey Zinc, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Television, Simon and Schuster, South Puerto Rico Sugar Company|
Gulf and Western's origins date to a manufacturer named Michigan Bumper Co. founded in 1934, although Charles Bluhdorn treated his 1958 takeover of what was then Michigan Plating and Stamping, as its "founding" for the purpose of later anniversaries.
Under Bluhdorn the company diversified widely, leaving behind such things as stamping metal bumpers not only for communications properties such as Paramount Pictures (acquired in 1966), but also:
- Kayser-Roth (a clothing company that happened to own the Miss Universe pageant because it had bought Pacific Mills, which had invented the pageant to sell its Catalina Swimwear brand)
- APS Holding Corp., which manufactured auto parts
- New Jersey Zinc (1966)
- The South Puerto Rico Sugar Company in La Romana, Dominican Republic (1967)
- The Associates First Capital Corporation, a financial services company (1968)
- Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation (1968)
- Consolidated Cigars (1968)
- Stax Records (1968)
- Sega (1969)
- Simon and Schuster (1975)
- Madison Square Garden and by extension the New York Rangers and New York Knicks (1977)
- Thomas Ryder and Son, of Bolton, a machine tool manufacturing company (1982)
- Simmons Bedding Company (1979)
With the Paramount acquisition, Gulf and Western became parent company of the Dot Records label, and the Famous Music publishing company. After Stax was acquired, that label became a subsidiary of Dot, although Dot was not at all mentioned on the label (rather, Dot and Stax were noted as subsidiaries of Paramount). Later on, the record operation was moved under Famous Music and renamed the Famous Music Group.
The company also purchased Desilu Productions from Lucille Ball in 1967, which included most of her television product, as well as such properties as Star Trek and Mission: Impossible (it and its successor companies would make millions on both series over the following decades with such projects as Star Trek's various hit follow-up television projects and films, beginning in the late 1970s). Desilu was renamed Paramount Television.
Gulf and Western sold Stax back to its original owners in 1970, and with it the rights to all Stax recordings not owned by Atlantic Records. A year before, Dot's non-country music roster and catalog was moved to a newly created label, Paramount Records (the name was previously used by a label unrelated to the movie studio, Paramount acquired the rights to that name in order to launch this label). It assumed Dot's status as the flagship label of Paramount's record operations, releasing music by pop artists and soundtracks from Paramount's films and television series. Dot meanwhile became a country label.
Famous Music provided distribution for several independent labels, such as Neighborhood Records and Sire Records. Famous began distributing yet another independent label, Blue Thumb Records, in 1971, before buying it outright in 1972. In 1974, Gulf and Western sold the entire record operation to the American Broadcasting Company, who continued the Dot and Blue Thumb imprints as subsidiaries of ABC Records, while discontinuing the Paramount label altogether.
While working for Paramount, Barry Diller had proposed a "fourth network", but he could not convince the board of trustees/directors of the wisdom of this idea. Fox owner News Corporation was, however, interested in starting a network.
The early 1980s
On June 5, 1980, Gulf and Western unveiled an electric car, powered by a zinc chloride battery that would hold a charge for several hours and permit speeds of up to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). By year's end, however, the U.S. Department of Energy (which had invested $15 million in the project) reported that the battery had 65% less power than predicted and could be recharged only by highly trained personnel.
In 1983 Bluhdorn died of a heart attack on a plane en route home from the sugar plantation to New York headquarters, and the board bypassed president David Judelson and named senior vice president Martin S. Davis, who had come up through Paramount Pictures, as the new Chief executive officer.
The Martin Davis restructuring
Davis slimmed down the company's wilder diversifications and focused it on entertainment, and sold all of its non-entertainment and non-publishing assets.
In 1981, former officials of Gulf and Western's Natural Resources Division led a buyout of New Jersey Zinc and made it a subsidiary of Horsehead Industries, Inc. In 1983, Gulf and Western sold Consolidated Cigar Corporation to five of its senior managers.
Also in 1983, Gulf and Western sold the U.S. assets of Sega to pinball manufacturer Bally Manufacturing. The Japanese assets of Sega were purchased by a group of investors led by David Rosen and Hayao Nakayama.
South Puerto Rico Sugar was sold to an investment group including The Fanjul Brothers in 1984.
In 1985, APS auto parts, Kayser-Roth clothing and Simmons Bedding were sold to the Wickes Companies. The company, thus restructured, subsequently renamed itself Paramount Communications in 1989, and promptly sold The Associates to the Ford Motor Company.
The Gulf and Western Building (15 Columbus Circle in Manhattan) by Thomas E. Stanley, was built in 1970 for the Gulf and Western company north of Columbus Circle, at the south-western corner of Central Park. The building occupies a narrow block between Broadway and Central Park West and, at 207 metres (679 ft), it commands the dramatic view to the north, as well as its immediate surroundings.
The top of the building sported a restaurant, The Top of the Park, which was never a full success even though run by Stuart Levin, famous for the Four Seasons, Le Pavillon, and other "shrines of haute cuisine," and it being graced with Levin's own elegant signature sculpture by Jim Gary, "Universal Woman."
Similarly, the cinema space in the basement—named Paramount after the picture company that Gulf and Western owned—was closed as the building was sold.
Problems with the 45-story building's structural frame gave it unwanted fame as its base was scaffolded for years and the upper floors were prone to sway excessively on windy days, even leading to cases of nausea akin to motion sickness.
The 1997 renovation into a hotel and residential building, the Trump International Hotel and Tower (One Central Park West), by Costas Kondylis and Philip Johnson involved extensive renovation of both interior and facades. For example, the 45 stories of the original office tower were converted into a 52-story residential building, enabled by the lower ceiling height of residential spaces. The facade was converted with the addition of dark glass walls with distinctive shiny steel framing.
Paramount Communications Incorporated
In 1983, after Charles Bluhdorn had died and caused it to come under Martin Davis' leadership, as described above, Gulf and Western began a restructuring process that would transform the corporation from a bloated conglomerate consisting of subsidiaries from unrelated industries to a more focused entertainment and publishing company. The idea was to aid financial markets in measuring the company's success, which, in turn, would help place better value on its shares. Though its Paramount division did very well in recent years, Gulf and Western's success as a whole was translating poorly with investors. This process eventually led Davis to divest many of the company's subsidiaries. Its sugar plantations in Florida and the Dominican Republic were sold in 1985; the consumer and industrial products branch was sold off that same year. In 1989, Davis renamed the company Paramount Communications Incorporated after its primary asset, Paramount Pictures. In addition to the Paramount film, television, home video, and music publishing divisions, the company continued to own the Madison Square Garden properties (which also included MSG Network), a 50% stake in USA Networks (the other 50% was owned by MCA/Universal Studios) and Simon and Schuster, Prentice Hall, Pocket Books, Allyn & Bacon, Cineamerica (a joint venture with Warner Communications), and Famous Players Theatres.
That same year, the company launched a $12.2 billion hostile bid to acquire Time Inc. in an attempt to end a stock-swap merger deal between Time and Warner Communications, which also renamed itself after a movie studio it owned upon selling off its non-entertainment assets. (In the case of what eventually became Time Warner, the original name was Kinney National Company.) This caused Time to raise its bid for Warner to $14.9 Billion in cash and stock. Gulf and Western responded by filing a lawsuit in a Delaware court to block the Time-Warner merger. The court ruled twice in favor of Time, forcing Gulf and Western to drop both the Time acquisition and the lawsuit, and allowing the formation of Time Warner.
Paramount used cash acquired from the sale of G+W's non-entertainment properties to take over the TVX Broadcast Group chain of television stations (which at that point consisted mainly of large-market stations which TVX had bought from Taft Broadcasting, plus two mid-market stations which TVX owned prior to the Taft purchase), and the KECO Entertainment chain of theme parks from Taft successor Great American Broadcasting. Both of these companies had their names changed to reflect new ownership: TVX became known as the Paramount Stations Group, while KECO was renamed to Paramount Parks.
Paramount Television launched Wilshire Court Productions in conjunction with USA Networks, before the latter was renamed NBCUniversal Cable, in 1989. Wilshire Court Productions (named for a side street in Los Angeles) produced made-for-television movies that aired on USA, and later for other networks. USA Networks launched a second channel, the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as Syfy), in 1992. As its name implied, it focused on films and television series within the science fiction genre. Much of the initial programming was owned either by Paramount or Universal. Paramount bought one more television station in 1993: WKBD-TV in Detroit, Michigan, at the time an affiliate of the Fox Broadcasting Company.
New ownership, later acquisitions and split-off
Paramount Communications Inc. was acquired by Viacom in 1994 following the purchase of 50.1 percent of Paramount's shares for $9.75 billion. At the time, Paramount's holdings included Paramount Pictures, Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers, the New York Knicks, and the Simon and Schuster publishing house. Though Davis was named a member of the board of National Amusements, which controlled Viacom, he ceased to manage the company.
Months after the Viacom takeover, the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup since 1940 over the Vancouver Canucks 4 games to 3, breaking the Curse of 1940 in the process. It would be the Rangers' last game under Viacom ownership.
Under Viacom, the Paramount Stations Group continued to build with more station acquisitions, eventually leading to Viacom's acquisition of its former parent, the CBS network, in 1999. Around the same time, Viacom bought out Spelling Entertainment, incorporating its library into that of Paramount itself.
Viacom split into two companies in 2006, one retaining the Viacom name (which continues to own Paramount Pictures), while another was named CBS Corporation (which now controls Paramount Television Group, which was renamed CBS Paramount Television, now known as CBS Television Studios and worldwide distribution unit is now CBS Television Distribution and CBS Studios International, in 2006, Simon and Schuster [except for Prentice Hall and other educational units, which Viacom sold to Pearson PLC in 1998], and what's left of the original Paramount Stations Group, now known as CBS Television Stations). National Amusements retains majority control of the two. The "new" Viacom also inherits the status of being the legal successor to G+W.
Together, these two companies own many of the former media assets of Gulf and Western and its Paramount successor today. Meanwhile, the Madison Square Garden properties (including the Knicks and Rangers) were sold to Cablevision not long after the Viacom takeover. Cablevision owned the MSG properties until 2010, when they were spun-off as their own company. CBS retained ownership of the Paramount Parks chain for a short while, but sold the parks to Cedar Fair in 2006, and thus National Amusements got out of the theme park ownership business entirely. Over the next few years, Cedar Fair purged references to Viacom-owned properties from the former Paramount Parks, a task completed in 2010. Viacom also sold its stake in the USA Networks to Universal in 1997, and the channels came under the ownership of Universal's successor, NBCUniversal, which still retained those holdings as of late July 2013.
Another communications company, Western Gulf Media, was incorporated in Texas in 1994. Based in Dallas and The Rio Grande Valley this media company owned and operated broadcasting interests, Internet publications and on-line radio streams. It has no relationship with the former communications group mentioned above.
In popular culture
- The Talking Heads song "Puzzlin' Evidence" which is about the commercialization of America mentions the conglomerate in the line, "With your Gulf and Western and your MasterCard, got what you wanted and lost what you had."
- In Mel Brooks' 1976 film, Silent Movie, the main characters make a color silent film to prevent "Engulf and Devour" from taking over a film studio. This was in reference to the Gulf and Western takeover of Paramount Pictures in 1966.
- In the Animaniacs episode "This Pun For Hire," a rare and valuable statue serves as a plot device—when one of the characters tries to run off with it, she says that she "claims it in the name of Gulf and Western," and Yakko concludes that she works for Paramount. But by the time the episode was actually transmitted, G+W had ceased to exist.
- Gulf and Western owned Famous Music, a music publishing company, through Paramount Pictures. The music publishing company was created in 1928 by Famous-Lasky Corp., Paramount's predecessor.
- Viacom sold Famous Music in 2007 to Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC.
- "Energy Flashes". Mother Earth News. Jan–February 1981. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- Martin Davis, 72; Created Modern Paramount. New York Times, October 6, 1999
- Saxon, Wolfgang, Stuart Levin, 64, an Operator of Elegant Restaurants is dead, New York Times, December 21, 1994
- Prince, Stephen (2000) A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980–1989 (p. 60-65). University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles, California. ISBN 0-520-23266-6
- Williams, Linda (April 10, 1989). "Gulf & Western Wants Buyer for Finance Division : Paramount's Parent Plans to Change Name, Focus on Entertainment, Publishing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
- Fabrikant, Geraldine (February 15, 1994). "Executives Say That Viacom Has Won Paramount Battle". New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2012.