Paul Bilzerian is an American-Armenian entrepreneur, corporate takeover specialist, and a convicted felon.
Paul Alec Bilzerian Man Magazin was born in 1950 (age 70 years; as of 2020) in Miami, Florida, US. He was brought up in Worcester, Massachusetts, US. He studied at a school in Worchester, Massachusetts, from where he dropped out in September 1968 when he was in high school, an action that was a response to him being called in the principal’s office for wearing blue jeans that violated the school’s dress code. After dropping out of his school, he joined the US Army and completed the high school equivalency test to attend officer’s school and ascended to the rank of first lieutenant. After his discharge from the army, he joined Standford University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Political Science with distinction in 1975. After completing his graduation, he wished to attend law schools and got offers from many law schools including the Harvard Business School (HBS). He chose HBS but sooner regretted his choice as he felt unsure of his decision to attend HBS when he had offers from other law schools. The New York Times
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Color: Salt & Pepper
Eye Color: Green
Family & Ethnicity
He is of Armenian descent. According to him, his forefathers survived the Armenian Genocide (1914–1923), the mass murder of the expulsion of ethnic Armenians in Turkey and adjoining regions by the Ottoman government during World War I. His family moved to the United States in the 20th century. Armen Press
Parents & Siblings
His father, Oscar A. Bilzerian, was a civil servant.
His mother’s name is Joan Bilzerian (nee Barrie).
He had disturbed teenage years due to his parents who divorced when he was a high school student. He has a brother named Mark S. Bilzerian and a sister named Deborah C. Lambert.
Wife & Children
In 1978, he got married to Terri Steffen, also a Stanford graduate and his classmate. After their marriage, they moved to St. Petersburg, Florida.
He has two sons; Adam Bilzerian, an American-born Nevisian poker player, and writer; Dan Bilzerian (an American actor, businessman, amateur poker player, and social media influencer.
After he dropped out of high school, Paul joined the US Army and served in the Vietnam War (Nov 1955-Apr 1975); he got decorations for his services in Vietnam. After his discharge from the army, he completed his graduation from Stanford and studied law at Harvard. Just out of Harvard, he got a job at the treasurer’s office of the Crown Zellerbach Corporation, where he evaluated merger opportunities. His interest in making his own deals, made him quit his job and start investments. In 1978, he took over WPLP, a radio station in Seminole, Florida, with his two friends who were veterans from the Vietnam War and had experience in broadcasting. Soon, he moved from San Francisco to St. Petersburg to handle finances while his two colleagues managed the sales and marketing of the station. However, after a dispute over control, Paul left the station in the late 1970s. After which, his partners filed a lawsuit claiming that Paul had put up only half of the $100,000 that he had pledged and wrote a $50,000 check on his company’s checkbook to his father-in-law, Harry Steffen, a former real estate developer who had put his money on the station after Harry was discharged from the board. When the name-calling ended, Paul, recovered his father-in-law’s investment and secured a $300,000 promissory note to drop all claims to the station’s assets in an out-of-court settlement. Soon, his father-in-law made him a part of his business, and in 1982, he turned to stocks. In 1984, he moved to Sacramento, California, with his wife, and in early 1984, he took his first try in takeover business with a small holding in Syntax Corporation, which failed as he had told his plans to many people and the stocks ran before he could buy much of it. In 1985, he made his first two high-profile takeover attempts; New York clothing manufacturer ‘Cluett Peabody & Company’; Pittsburgh construction company ‘H. H. Robertson.’ In 1986, he returned to Florida and made his takeover bid against Hammermill Paper Company with fellow investors William and Earle I. Mack (sons of New Jersey real estate developer H. Bert Mack) and purchased about 3.3 million Hammermill shares at an average price of roughly $47 per share, and then offered $900 million ($52 per share) to purchase the remainder of the company, a deal rejected after Hammermill sold out to International Paper instead at $64.50 per share. However, he still walked out of the deal with a profit of more than $60 million. In 1987, Bilzerian started the takeover of the Singer Corporation, a sewing machine manufacturer, and purchased $2.1 million of Singer’s shares in the preceding two months by T. Boone Pickens with a group of investors that was led by Paul himself. In January 1988, Pickens gave $150 million in additional financing that helped Bilzerian acquire Singer.
After he completed his imprisonment for the Stock Parking case in the 1980s, he became the president of Cimetrix, a Utah-based software company. In 2002, after another lawsuit was filed against him, his ownership in Cimetrix was confiscated by the government due to which the company declared bankruptcy.
In 2020, a publication reported that he was managing Ignite International Ltd., a company founded by his son, Dan Bilzerian. The reports alleged that Paul sent thousands of emails between himself and other top executives, taking a less shadowy role within the company.
Stock Parking Case
In 1986, the federal government discovered an insider trading scheme through which Dennis Levine, a Drexel Burnham investment banker, was exchanging inside information for suitcases of cash from Ivan Boesky, a Stock trader. During the suit, he testified against Boyd Jefferies, the Chairman of Jefferies & Company, who testified against three individuals in the corporate and investment banking community that included Paul Bilzerian’s name. The SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) then charged him for engagement in deceptive practices by hiding his ownership of the takeover targets in secret accounts at the Jefferies & Co. stock brokerage firm in Los Angeles during four deals. According to Paul,
I was the first person ever to be indicted for 13d disclosure violations as the hundreds of previous cases were civil and resolved with consent decrees and without fines or penalties. I’d spend $100,000 to defend a $200 lawsuit if I felt I was in the right. ‘I guess that’s the ultimate definition of litigious.”
He then pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of violating securities and tax laws, conspiracy, and making false statements to the government; due to the growing public controversy, he also demanded a speedy trial to clear his name. After two days of discussions in June, Paul was found guilty on nine counts including conspiracy, making false statements, and securities law violations by the jury. In September, he was given a sentence of four years in prison and a fine of $1.5 million for testifying in his own defense. According to Paul,
Judge Ward had told me before trial that if I lost and did not testify I would receive no jail time, but if I lost and testified I would pay the price.”
He then made an appeal in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit citing that his trial had been unfair, which was ruled out against him in a split decision in January 1991. In December 1991, he began serving his sentence at the now-closed Federal Prison Camp, Eglin at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. After his release from prison in December 1992, he served his sentence under house arrest.
Civil Suit & Bankruptcy
After he was already convicted, a civil suit was filed against him by SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) on similar charges to force him to empty his profits from the takeover attempts; Paul considered this suit as double jeopardy as he had served sentences for his actions. In 1993, the judgment came in favor of the SEC and ordered Paul to pour out $33.1 million of profits including interest that added up to $62 million. In January 1994, he filed an unsuccessful appeal against the civil judgment in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that SEC may seek and obtain disgorgement from a court as “equitable relief” for a securities law violation. In 1991, he filed for bankruptcy due to the size of the disgorgement judgment. In 1999, he put his Avila mansion up for sale in Tampa, Florida. In January 2001, he filed for bankruptcy again and declared his non-exempt assets of $15,805 against $140 million in debts, which was for the government’s disgorgement judgment. On June 11, 2001, FBI agents raided his family’s residence of a sealed warrant and seized computers, files, and a Beretta firearm; he was in prison at that time. In January 2002, he was released from prison after his wife agreed to sell the residence, split the proceeds with the SEC, and transfer most of her wealth to the SEC.
Awards & Honors
- Vietnamese Gallantry Cross
- Bronze Star Medal
- Army Commendation Medal
He owned a 28,000 square foot 10-bedroom, 13-bathroom, and 6-half-bath mansion in Avila, Tampa. The mansion also had indoor basketball and racquetball courts, four fireplaces, and a wine room. The house was sold for $2.85 million in 2016. Tampa Bay Times
- He is a sports enthusiast. In his now-sold mansion in Avila, he made indoor basketball and racketball courts to play sports. He also had dreamed of participating in a major baseball league.
- Apart from sports, he is also a cinephile (a movie enthusiast). He once wished to access a video library for his personal use and the tax benefits of depreciating the films. He also frequented a video rental store in his South Bay Fashion Center in Sarasota.
- After dropping out of high school, he did several odd jobs, which includes working as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant and loading trucks. In his spare time, he rode his motorcycle. He joined the army when he got bored.
- While he was graduating, he and his wife used to borrow a bicycle to do house chores. While he used to pedal, his wife rode on the handlebars balancing the laundry. However, according to a classmate of Paul, he had a ‘big, old Cadillac’ at the time, which paul denies.
- From 1978 to the time he went to prison in 1991, he owned a few homes in St. Petersburg.
- At the 1989 hearing of his stock parking case, he evaluated his worth roughly at more than $50 million. In a private suit later that year, he estimated his net worth to be $81.4 million. At times, he has also claimed that he had made hundreds of millions of dollars. WSJ
- During the 2020 Azeri attacks, Paul and his two sons, gave a donation of $250,000 to the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, an organization raising funds to support Artsakh in the attacks. Talking about it in an interview, he said,
I am very disappointed that Azerbaijan decided to attack the Armenian people. This is terrible, young people are dying. The country has to defend itself and the people are heading to the border to war.”
References [ + ]