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December 23, 1923 |
Meshulam grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel, before coming to the United States in 1947 with his first wife, Judith Stern, with whom he has three children: Ira Riklis, Simona Riklis, and Marcia Riklis. He studied mathematics at Ohio State University, graduating in 1950. His first significant job was as a junior stock analyst for the Minneapolis investment firm Piper Jaffray.
Riklis is credited with originating complicated paper schemes like junk bonds and leveraged buyouts to take over control of major companies, then doing paper switches of the assets into companies he owned. His first significant foray was the creation of the Rapid-American Corporation by combining his significant stake in Rapid Electrotype Company, a platemaking concern with the American Colortype Company, a maker of stereoview lithographs and dollhouse furniture. Tracing the history of Rapid American Corporation and its renamed form Glen Alden Corporation, one can find the succession of acquisitions Riklis used to create his financial empire, including McCrory Stores, Leeds Travelware, Gruen Watch Company, Elizabeth Arden cosmetics, Aunt Nellie's Farm Kitchens, Bargain Time, Beatrice Foods, Canadian retailer Dylex, Culligan International, Fabergé Cosmetics, J. J. Newberry stores, Lerner Shops, Lawry's Meat Specialties, Martha White Foods, Odd Lot Trading, International Playtex, the Riviera hotel and casino in Las Vegas, RKO-Stanley Warner Theatres, Samsonite, Schenley Industries, and the one-time American distributor of Dewar's whisky.
After his financial empire was well established, he returned to Ohio State to complete his acquisition of a Master's Degree in Finance. His degree thesis, titled "Expansion through Financial Management" and based on his career, discussed "the effective use, or rather non-use, of cash."
One of the many shells and holding companies he created in the process of building the empire was E-II Holdings, in which the other investors later discovered he had placed the names of impressive companies, but not the assets. Among the investors in E-II was Carl Icahn. These investors revolted on Riklis and started seizing other properties in the financial empire.
Many of the corporations declared bankruptcy, again carefully maneuvered by Riklis to preserve his personal wealth. He famously sold his stake in the Carnival Cruise Line to Ted Arison for US$1.
Forbes Magazine reported that while at the helm of a string of his companies, Riklis left his creditors unpaid for over US$2.9 billion in debt. According to Forbes, less than 10% of this had been recovered as of 2007.
After divorcing his first wife, the 53-year-old Riklis was married to the then 23-year-old Pia Zadora on September 18, 1977. Riklis then financed the movie Butterfly, starring Zadora. Her acting in the film was lampooned by comedians and professional critics, winning her the Razzie Award for Worst Actress, but she also won the Golden Globe Award as New Star of the Year after a well publicized press junket paid for by Riklis, also hosted at his own Riviera Hotel.
Riklis and Zadora then bought and demolished one of Beverly Hills' best known landmarks, Pickfair Manor, the former home of silent movie legends Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, to build a larger home on the site. They lived there until their divorce proceedings began in 1993.
In 2010, at 86 years of age, Riklis married his third wife, Tali Sinai, who was almost 40 years his junior.
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