Ike Perlmutter prevails and the culprit of vicious mailings is established as a bizarre, eight-year-old case results in a summary judgment win.
BY ERIQ GARDNER
It had to happen eventually. After eight long years in court, one of the strangest cases in Florida history is headed toward the finish line after a remarkable summary judgment order on Monday. Long story short: Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, the chairman of Marvel Entertainment, has finally beaten libel claims over mysterious hate mail.
This bizarre saga began as a feud over tennis courts in a swanky waterfront Palm Beach complex where Perlmutter, who once pulled Marvel out of bankruptcy and sold the company to Disney for $4 billion, fought with Harold Peerenboom, a Toronto businessman who founded multinational executive search firm Mandrake Management.
What started out as community politics among Florida’s wealthy set turned truly vicious upon the distribution of letters a decade ago that painted Peerenboom as a sex offender, a Nazi and a corrupt business person. His neighbors received the anonymous mailings. As did his business associates. Finally, there were letters with Peerenboom falsely listed as the sender to more than a thousand inmates in prisons across Florida, stating such things as: “While your [sic] in jail, I am writing to your mom, telling her exactly what kind of scumbag you are.”
Peerenboom blamed Perlmutter — and his libel suit and talk of a positive DNA match resulted in a splashy New York Times article.
No one could imagine that this story was just beginning and would take turns worthy of an Iron Man comic.
About that DNA test: Perlmutter’s genetic material was harvested during a deposition when he touched “special paper.” This would form the basis for novel counterclaims testing a new Florida law governing surreptitious DNA collection. (The judge gave a green light.) Perlmutter also alleged that test results had been distorted and reinterpreted before being given to law enforcement officials and reporters to smear him.
The case pitted Perlmutter, one of Donald Trump’s closest friends and campaign financiers, against Peerenboom’s attorney Marc Kasowitz, a lawyer who was once called “Donald Trump’s go-to guy for his toughest legal battles.”
Indeed, the biggest plot twist in this case came during the beginning of the Trump administration, when Customs and Border Protection agents in Detroit intercepted a suspicious package on route from a UPS Store in Toronto to one in Florida. The package was a “hate mail kit” — letters inside sealed envelopes with preprinted addresses along with latex gloves. Canadian federal authorities traced the origins to David Smith, a former employee of Peerenboom’s company, Mandrake.
Smith was arrested, and as written by Circuit Judge Cymonie Rowe in a judgment delivered yesterday, it’s now been established that all mailings but those in June 2011 were done by Smith.
Yet Peerenboom, even after Kasowitz bowed out of the case at the end of last year, has resisted letting go of claims that Perlmutter was the perpetrator.
“[Peerenboom] argues that the deposition of the established ‘hate mailer,’ Mr. Smith, has not been completed, and Mr. Smith has pleaded the Fifth Amendment on questions that might somehow possibly link the Perlmutters to Mr. Smith’s actions,” writes the judge. “Yet Mr. Smith has testified that he does not know the Perlmutters, and the Perlmutters had no involvement in his mailings. And at this stage of a now nearly eight-year-old case, Peerenboom concedes that he has no evidence linking the Perlmutters to anything except the June 2011 mailing, which Isaac Perlmutter has admitted to sending.”
What were those mailings in June 2011? Mostly old news articles about Peerenboom’s business dealings in Toronto, specifically about relationships with government officials.
Even if these mailings were actionable as libel, Judge Rowe says claims here fall outside the statute of limitations. She also fails to see the requisite level of “outrageousness” to support a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
And so Perlmutter, represented by Roy Black, Jared Lopez and Josh Dubin, ends this story as victorious as one of his comic book heroes. Here’s the full judgment.