CONTACT: SHERI ANNIS
Sunday, May 24, 1998.
A. Jerrold Perenchio, the Republican billionaire who owns the Univision Spanish-language television network, has suddenly emerged as the principal financial backer of the campaign to defeat Proposition 227, the "English for the Children" initiative.
According to newly released financial reports, Mr. Perenchio wrote a $1.5 million check to the "No on 227" campaign in late April, and also began providing free television time with an estimated value of over $1 million for "No on 227" editorials on his television network. The cash contribution alone is believed to be the largest made by any individual to any political campaign in California history, excluding self-funded candidates. The television editorial campaign is also without precedent in California.
Univision controls over 80% of America's Spanish-language television market, and constitutes the bulk of Mr. Perenchio's $1.5 billion net worth, which ranks him as the 94th wealthiest American (Forbes, 10/13/97). A one point drop in Spanish TV ratings would cost Mr. Perenchio hundreds of millions of dollars.
Campaign finance documents reveal that Mr. Perenchio ranks as the largest individual donor to the Gubernatorial campaigns of both Dan Lungren, the Republican candidate ($207,000), and Gray Davis, the leading Democratic candidate ($100,000), as well as one of the largest donors to Jane Harman ($50,000), the second ranking Democrat. Despite its overwhelming popularity, Proposition 227 has been publicly opposed by Dan Lungren, Gray Davis, and Jane Harman.
Proposition 227 would largely end California's controversial system of bilingual education, which critics charge prevents Latino children from learning English. Polls show that Latinos currently favor the measure by better than 2-1.
Who is A. Jerrold Perenchio?
Mr. Perenchio is an Italian-American television producer living in Bel Air, California, with a personal net-worth estimated by Forbes (10/13/97) at $1.5 billion, ranking him as the 94th wealthiest individual in America.
In 1994, he became Gov. Pete Wilson's largest individual donor, providing $131,000 to fund Wilson's successful reelection campaign, which featured highly controversial "187" commercials focusing on Latino illegal immigrants. During the years 1994 through 1996, he contributed a total of $407,000 to Wilson's various campaigns.
Mr. Perenchio currently ranks as the largest individual donor to Dan Lungren, the Republican candidate for Governor ($207,000) and also the largest individual donor to Gray Davis, the leading Democratic candidate for Governor ($100,000). In addition, he is the second largest individual donor to Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Jane Harman ($50,000), after Jane Harman's own father.
The bulk of Mr. Perenchio's net worth derives from his ownership of Univision, the leading Spanish- language television network, which controls over 80% of the market. According to Forbes(10/13/97), Perenchio "bought Univision from Hallmark in 1992 with Mexican, Venezuelan billionaire partners, who wanted in on U.S. television market, but faced complex foreign ownership restrictions. Perenchio paved their way."
Univision's enormous market value is based on an extremely high price-earnings ratio of 50, based on highly optimistic projections regarding the growth of the Spanish-language television audience in the United States. But a March article in Forbes (3/23/98) recently noted that younger Latinos were switching to English- language television programming much more rapidly than originally expected, as the population increasingly learned English and became acculturated into American society. Nielsen Media Research found that Univision this past season had lost 6% of its younger female audience and a huge 26% of its younger male viewers. If these trends continue, Perenchio's net worth could fall by hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Univision network recently began running a massive volume of "public service announcement" 30- second spots implying that Proposition 227 was an anti- Latino measure, which would deny an education to young Latino schoolchildren. Proposition 227---the "English for the Children" initiative---is intended to insure that all Latino children are taught English in California public schools.
Shortly thereafter, Perenchio donated $1.5 million to the "No on 227" campaign. It is believed that this is the single largest donation of any individual to any political campaign in the history of California (excluding self-funded candidates). Simultaneously, all Univision stations in California began running a heavy barrage of daily editorials urging all Latino viewers to vote No on Proposition 227. There is no precedent in California political history for such an intensive editorial campaign by a television station or network on any political race. The latest polls show that California Latinos currently favor Proposition 227 by better than 2-1.