Former type Conglomerate
Industry Clothing, Entertainment, Industry, Mass media, Publishing
Fate Renamed Paramount Communications in 1989 after leading subsidiary Paramount Pictures
Sold to Viacom in 1994
Remnants operating as Viacom or CBS Corporation
Successor Viacom
(a division of National Amusements)
Founded 1934 as Michigan Bumper Co.
Defunct 1994
Headquarters New York, New York, United States
Key people Charles Bluhdorn
Subsidiaries Associates First Capital Corporation, Consolidated Cigars, Kayser-Roth, Madison Square Garden, New Jersey Zinc, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Television, Simon & Schuster, South Puerto Rico Sugar Company
(websites of successor companies)

Gulf and Western Industries, Inc., for a number of years known as Gulf+Western, was an American conglomerate.



Gulf and Western's prosaic origins date to a manufacturer named Michigan Bumper Co. founded in 1934, though Charles Bluhdorn treated his 1958 takeover of what was then Michigan Plating & Stamping as its "founding" for the purpose of later anniversaries.

Under Bluhdorn the company diversified widely, leaving behind things like stamping metal bumpers not only for communications properties like Paramount Pictures (acquired in 1966) but also:

  • Kayser-Roth (a clothing company which happened to own the Miss Universe pageant because it had bought Pacific Mills, which had invented the pageant to sell its Catalina Swimwear brand)
  • APS Holding Corp., which manufactured auto parts
  • New Jersey Zinc (1966)
  • The South Puerto Rico Sugar Company in La Romana, Dominican Republic (1967)
  • The Associates First Capital Corporation, a financial services company (1968)
  • Consolidated Cigars (1968)
  • Stax Records (1968)
  • Sega (1969)
  • Simon & Schuster (1975)
  • Madison Square Garden and by extension the New York Rangers and New York Knicks (1977)
  • Thomas Ryder and Son, of Bolton, a machine tool manufacturing company. (1982)


With the Paramount acquisition, G+W became parent company of the Dot Records label, and the Famous Music publishing company. After Stax was acquired, that label became a subsidiary of Dot, though Dot was not at all mentioned on the actual label (rather, Dot and Stax were noted as subsidiaries of Paramount). Later on, the record operation was moved under Famous Music and renamed the Famous Music Group.

The company also purchased Desilu Productions from Lucille Ball in 1967, which included most of Ball's television product, as well as such properties as Star Trek and Mission: Impossible (it and its successor companies would make millions on both series over the following decades with such projects as Star Trek's various hit follow-up TV projects and films, beginning in the late 1970s). Desilu was renamed to Paramount Television.

Gulf+Western sold Stax back to its original owners in 1970, with it the rights to all Stax recordings not owned by Atlantic Records. A year before, Dot's non-country music roster and catalog was moved to a newly-created label, Paramount Records (the name was previously used by a label unrelated to the movie studio, Paramount acquired the rights to that name in order to launch this label). It assumed Dot's status as the flagship label of Paramount's record operations, releasing music by pop artists and soundtracks from Paramount's films and TV series. Dot meanwhile became a country label.

Famous Music provided distribution for several independent labels, such as Neighborhood Records and Sire Records. Famous began distributing yet another independent label, Blue Thumb Records, in 1971, before buying it outright in 1972. In 1974, Gulf+Western sold the entire record operation to the American Broadcasting Company, who continued the Dot and Blue Thumb imprints as subsidiaries of ABC Records, while discontinuing the Paramount label altogether.

The early 1980s

On June 5, 1980, Gulf+Western unveiled an electric car, powered by a zinc chloride battery that would hold a charge for several hours and permit speeds of up to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). By year's end, however, the U.S. Department of Energy (which had invested $15 million in the project) reported that the battery had 65% less power than predicted and could be recharged only by highly trained personnel.[1]

In 1983 Bluhdorn died of a heart attack on a plane en route home from the sugar plantation to New York headquarters, and the board bypassed president David Judelson and named senior vice president Martin S. Davis, who had come up through Paramount Pictures, as the new Chief executive officer.

Enter Martin Davis

Davis slimmed down the company's wilder diversifications and focused it on entertainment, and sold all of its non-entertainment and non-publishing assets.[2]

In 1981, former officials of Gulf and Western's Natural Resources Division led a buyout of New Jersey Zinc and made it a subsidiary of Horsehead Industries, Inc. In 1983, Gulf & Western sold Consolidated Cigar Corporation to five of its senior managers.

Also in 1983, Gulf+Western sold the U.S. assets of Sega to pinball manufacturer Bally Manufacturing Corporation. The Japanese assets of Sega were purchased by a group of investors led by David Rosen and Hayao Nakayama.

South Puerto Rico Sugar was sold to an investment group including The Fanjul Brothers in 1984.

In 1985, APS auto parts, Kayser-Roth clothing and Simmons Bedding were sold to the Wickes Companies. The company restructured, subsequently renamed itself Paramount Communications in 1989, and promptly sold The Associates to the Ford Motor Company.


The Gulf & Western Building (15 Columbus Circle in New York City) by Thomas E. Stanley, was built in 1970 for the Gulf+Western company north of Columbus Circle, at the south-western corner of Central Park. The building occupies a narrow block between Broadway and Central Park West, and at 207 metres (679 ft) it dominates the view to the north, as well as its immediate surroundings.

The top of the building sported a restaurant, which was never a success. Similarly, the cinema space in the basement—named Paramount after the picture company that Gulf+Western owned—was closed as the building was sold.

Problems with the 45-story building's structural frame gave it unwanted fame as its base was scaffolded for years and the upper floors were prone to sway excessively on windy days, actually leading to cases of nausea akin to seasickness.

The 1997 renovation into a hotel and residential building, the Trump International Hotel & Tower (One Central Park West), by Costas Kondylis and Philip Johnson involved extensive renovation of both interior and facades. For example, the 45 stories of the original office tower were converted into a 52-story residential building, enabled by the lower ceiling height of residential spaces. The facade was converted with the addition of dark glass walls with distinctive shiny steel framing.

Paramount Communications Inc.

The newly restructured company was named after its prime asset, Paramount Pictures, which was also used popularly for the company as a whole. In addition to the Paramount film, television, home video, and music publishing divisions, the company continued to own the Madison Square Garden properties (which also included MSG Network), a 50% stake in USA Networks (the other 50% was owned by MCA/Universal Studios, which incidentally became the owner of the Famous Music Group catalog when it bought ABC Records in 1979 and a majority of the pre-1950 Paramount sound feature film library when it bought it in 1958) and Simon and Schuster (which itself acquired Prentice Hall a few years before, and later Gousha).

That same year, the company launched a $12.2 billion hostile bid to acquire Time Inc. in an attempt to end a stock-swap merger deal between Time and Warner Communications, which also renamed itself after a movie studio it owned upon selling off its non-entertainment assets (in this case, the original name was Kinney National Company). This caused Time to raise its bid for Warner to $14.9 Billion in cash and stock. The company responded by filing a lawsuit in a Delaware court to block the Time-Warner merger. The court ruled twice in favor of Time, forcing Gulf+Western to drop both the Time acquisition and the lawsuit, and allowing the formation of Time Warner.

Paramount used cash acquired from the sale of G+W's non-entertainment properties to take over the TVX Broadcast Group chain of TV stations (which at that point consisted mainly of large-market stations which TVX bought from Taft Broadcasting, plus two mid-market stations which TVX owned prior to the Taft purchase), and the KECO Entertainment chain of theme parks from Taft successor Great American Broadcasting. Both of these companies had their names changed to reflect new ownership: TVX became known as the Paramount Stations Group, while KECO was renamed to Paramount Parks.

Paramount Television launched Wilshire Court Productions in conjunction with USA Networks in 1989. Wilshire Court Productions (named for a side street in Los Angeles) produced made-for-TV movies that aired on USA, and later for other networks. USA Networks launched a second channel, the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as Syfy), in 1992. As its name implied, it focused on films and TV series within the science fiction genre. Much of the initial programming was owned either by Paramount or Universal.

Paramount bought one more TV station in 1993: WKBD-TV in Detroit, Michigan (the same state where the conglomerate got its start), at the time an affiliate of the Fox Broadcasting Company (which was headed by Barry Diller, who had proposed a "fourth network" while working for Paramount, but could not convince the board; Fox's owner, News Corporation, was, however, interested in starting a network).


It was under the "Paramount Communications" name that the company was taken over by Viacom. Davis was named a member of the board of National Amusements, which controlled Viacom, but ceased to manage the company.

Months after the Viacom takeover, the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup since 1940 over the Vancouver Canucks 4 games to 3, breaking the Curse of 1940 in the process. It would be the Rangers' last game under Viacom ownership.

Under Viacom, the Paramount Stations Group continued to build with more station acquisitions, eventually leading to Viacom's acquisition of its former parent, the CBS network, in 1999. Around the same time, Viacom bought out Spelling Entertainment, incorporating its library into that of Paramount itself (in a twist of irony, Spelling's holdings contained most of the programming assets once owned by Taft, which, as mentioned before, owned the theme parks and some of the TV stations that were later acquired by Paramount; additionally, CBS had owned a former Taft station that TVX intended to keep, WFOR-TV - formerly WCIX - in Miami, but would be sold to the network instead in 1988).

Viacom split into two companies in 2006, one retaining the Viacom name (which continues to own Paramount Pictures), while another was named CBS Corporation (which now controls Paramount Television Group, which was renamed CBS Paramount Television, now known as CBS Television Studios, in 2006, Simon & Schuster [except for Prentice Hall and other educational units, which Viacom sold to Pearson PLC in 1998], and what's left of the original Paramount Stations Group, now known as CBS Television Stations). National Amusements retains majority control of the two. The "new" Viacom also inherits the status of being the legal successor to G+W.

Together, these two companies own many of the former media assets of Gulf+Western and its Paramount successor today. Meanwhile, the Madison Square Garden properties (including the Knicks and Rangers) were sold to Cablevision not long after the Viacom takeover. Cablevision owned the MSG properties until 2010, when they were spun-off as their own company. CBS retained ownership of the Paramount Parks chain for a short while, but sold the parks to Cedar Fair in 2006, and thus National Amusements got out of the theme park ownership business entirely. Over the next few years, Cedar Fair purged references to Viacom-owned properties from the former Paramount Parks, a task completed in 2010. Also, Viacom sold off its stake in the USA Networks to Universal in 1997 - the channels are now owned by Universal's successor NBCUniversal.

Another communications company, Western Gulf Media, was incorporated in Texas in 1994. Based in Dallas and The Rio Grande Valley this media company owned and operated broadcasting interests, Internet publications and on-line radio streams. It has no relationship with the former communications group mentioned above.

In popular culture

  • The Talking Heads song "Puzzling Evidence" which is about the commercialization of America mentions the conglomerate in the line "With your Gulf and Western and your Mastercard, got what you wanted and lost what you had".
  • In Mel Brooks' 1976 film, Silent Movie, the main characters make a color silent film to prevent "Engulf & Devour" from taking over a film studio. This was in reference to the Gulf+Western takeover of Paramount Pictures in 1966.
  • In the Animaniacs episode "This Pun For Hire", a rare and valuable statue serves as a plot device - when one of the characters tries to run off with it, she says that she "claims it in the name of Gulf+Western", and Dot concludes she works for Paramount. By the time the episode aired, G+W had ceased to exist.

Famous Music

  • Gulf+Western owned Famous Music, a music publishing company, through Paramount Pictures. The music publishing company was created in 1928 by Famous-Lasky Corp., Paramount's predecessor.
  • Viacom sold Famous Music in 2007 to Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC.

See also

  • List of Paramount executives


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  • Gulf+Western — ou Gulf and Western Industries, Inc. est un conglomérat américain, fondé en 1934, mais est vendu en 1994 à la Viacom. Son industrie s étendait du marché du textile, au divertissement et aux médias. Histoire Références (en) Cet article est… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gulf & Western — Gulf+Western Gulf+Western était un conglomérat américain, fondé en 1934, mais est vendu en 1995 à la Viacom. Son industrie s étendait du marché du textile, au divertissement et aux médias. Portail du cinéma …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gulf + Western Inc. —       corporation that was founded in 1958 by Charles Bluhdorn and became one of the most highly diversified conglomerates in the United States. Gulf + Western took control of the Paramount Pictures Corporation (q.v.) in 1966. Gulf + Western… …   Universalium

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