Meshulam Riklis was at the helm of ‘Riklis Family Corp’ which he founded in 1980, turning the family-held entity into a colossal corporation that at its zenith owned several subsidiary companies. Some of the notable holding companies include Faberge, Elizabeth Arden, McCrory Stores, Rapid American Corporation, Samsonite, Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and Beatrice Foods. Riklis Family Corp continues to be an entirely family owned conglomerate whose stocks are held by Meshulam, his second wife Pia Zadora, his five children, and all his grandchildren.
The meteoric and unprecedented booming of Riklis Family Corp from a smalltime business into a monolithic entity in a way is emblematic of Meshulam’s own rise. He spent his growing up years in Tel Aviv finishing high school from Herzliya Gymnasia and immigrated to the US in 1947 taking admission in Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He gave Hebrew lessons in Minneapolis’s Talmud Torah School after graduating with a BA in mathematics in 1950.
In 1952, he took up employment as a stock analyst in ‘Piper, Jaffray, and Hopwood’, an investment consultant firm in Minneapolis. Within a short period of time, he demonstrated his unique entrepreneurial bent of mind, excelling in stockbroking by buying shares using debentures and selling off stocks in cash. He convinced some of his most steadfast clients into investing in companies’ stocks recommended by him that enabled him to amass a pooled investment fund of approximately $750 000.Riklis invested the pooled funds in buying out ‘American Color Type Company’ and ‘Rapid Electrotype Company’ in 1956, and about a year later, he amalgamated both the firms, naming the new outfit, ‘Rapid-American Corp’. He appointed himself as the president of the organization formed through a merger, and started acquiring packaging, apparel, and merchandising businesses basically through debt/equity swapping strategy.
In 1960, Meshulam Riklis acquired a 50% stake in United Stores Corporation which was a subsidiary holding of H.L. Green Company Inc. that was incorporated by merging H.L. Green Stores, McMellan Stores, and McCrory Stores. The MMG (McCory-McMellan-Green) merger in 1959 meant that the entity directly owned and controlled 850 outlets whose combined annual revenues exceeded $130 million. MMG that was renamed as McCrory Stores would go on to become the cash cow of the variety stores’ business division of Riklis Family Corp.
By 1961, Meshulam Riklis had completely bought out United Stores Corporation and had started running the behemoth, serving as interim president. Soon after, he recruited a team of young and highly motivated managers who revamped the existing outlets as well as took the initiative to open new stores.
In spite of taking all the requisite steps to shore up sales and improve the bottomline, the returns were trifling.
Meshulam resorted to massive downsizing and also liquidated all holdings of Rapid American Company in order to refurbish the ailing McCrory Stores. However, it was Samuel Neaman, the president of MMG who brought about a reversal in the corporation’s fortunes by streamlining operations, and increasing salaries and bonuses of employees. Riklis went back to Ohio State University in 1966 to complete MBA with a specialization in finance.
MMG continued expanding in the 1970s, buying 22 superstores in Southern US. In 1972, Rapid American Co took over JJ Newbury Stores merging the outfit with McCrory Corporation which gave it control over 1089 outlets, including 439 Newberry stores. The new store chain which was named G. McNew was grouped into six distinct subdivisions for better administration.
G. McNew suffered heavy losses for two years successively which saw the top management recommending strong centralized monitoring from the headquarters in Pennsylvania. The chain of stores was renamed McCrory Stores, unviable stores were closed down, low-budget outlets were rehabilitated, and a slew of other effective measures were adopted to pull the company out of the red.
The strategies proved successful as most of the stores started making profits, goading Riklis Family Corp to again go on an acquisition spree. By March 1976, Rapid-American Corp had gained total control of McCrory Corporation, allowing the firm to oversee more than 2,000 retail stores. The 1980s witnessed Riklis making several crafty financial moves, some of them quite convoluted.
In 1988, McCrory and Rapid American between themselves held a total of23 debt issues valued at a whopping $750 million making it quite easy for Meshulam Riklis to raise sufficient capital for debt servicing. Some of the financial jugglery that Meshulam resorted to did not go down well with a majority of the shareholders of his companies. For instance, his acquiring of E-II Holdings Inc was vehemently opposed by E-II bondholders and when he started abusing the firm’s funds, they threw him out.
In the 1990s, Meshulam’s companies suffered numerous setbacks as the highly leveraged mortgages that had kept his enterprises afloat were at risk. Most of his corporations became bankrupt and in 2013, Riklis himself filed for insolvency as personal injury charges were leveled against him by employees who lost their livelihood.
Meshulam Riklis, who is a nonagenarian now, was born on 2 December 1923, in Istanbul, Turkey. He spent his childhood and adolescence in Tel Aviv, and relocated to the US in 1947.
Meshulam has married three times in his life so far. Following separation from Judith Stern, his first wife, he married Pia Zadora in 1977. He split up with Pia in 1993 and married Tali Sinai, his third wife in 2010 at the age of 86.