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Gulf and Western Industries, Inc.
IndustryClothing, entertainment, industry, mass media, publishing
Founded1934; 88 years ago (1934) (as the Michigan Bumper Company)
Defunct1989; 33 years ago (1989)
FateAsset management; re-branded as Paramount Communications in 1989
SuccessorParamount Communications
HeadquartersNew York City, New York, United States
Key people
Charles Bluhdorn, Martin S. Davis
OwnerCharles Bluhdorn (1958)

Gulf and Western Industries, Inc. (stylized as Gulf+Western) was an American conglomerate. Originally, the company focused on manufacturing and resource extraction. Beginning in 1966, and continuing throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the company purchased a number of entertainment companies, most notably Paramount Pictures in 1966,[1] Desilu Productions in 1967, and a number of record companies, including Dot Records (a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures at the time of purchase) and Stax Records. These became the nuclei of Paramount Television and Paramount Records respectively.

The company sold its non-publishing and entertainment assets through the course of the 1980s, with the company re-branding itself as Paramount Communications in 1989.[1] A controlling interest of Paramount Communications was purchased by Viacom in 1994, and the entertainment assets of Gulf and Western are today part of the media conglomerate Paramount Global (also used the Paramount name as the holding company when Gulf and Western renamed Paramount Communications in 1989).[1]


The evolution of Paramount
1912Paramount Pictures is founded
1927CBS is founded
1929Paramount buys 49% of CBS
1932Paramount sells back shares of CBS
1950Desilu is founded & CBS distributes its television programs
1952CBS creates the CBS Television Film Sales division
1958CBS Television Film Sales renamed as CBS Films
1966Gulf+Western buys Paramount
1968Gulf+Western acquires Desilu and renames it Paramount Television & CBS Films becomes CBS Enterprises
1970CBS Enterprises renamed as Viacom
1971Viacom is spun off from CBS as a separate company
1985Viacom buys full ownership of Showtime & MTV Networks
1986National Amusements buys Viacom
1989Gulf+Western renamed as Paramount Communications
1994Viacom acquires Paramount Communications
1995Westinghouse buys CBS
1997Westinghouse renamed as CBS Corporation
1999Viacom buys CBS Corporation
2001Viacom buys BET Networks
2006Viacom splits into second CBS Corporation and Viacom
2019CBS Corporation and Viacom re-merge to form ViacomCBS
2022ViacomCBS changes its name to Paramount Global

Bluhdorn period

Gulf and Western's origins date to the 1956 purchase of the Michigan Bumper Company by entrepreneur Charles Bluhdorn, although Bluhdorn treated his 1958 takeover of Michigan Plating and Stamping as its "founding" for the purpose of later anniversaries. In 1958, Michigan Plating and Stamping acquired the Beard and Stone Electric Company in Houston, Texas, and changed its name to Gulf and Western Corporation. The name reflected the company's operations in Houston near the Gulf of Mexico and its intent to serve the growing automotive industry in the Western United States.[2][3]

Under Bluhdorn the company diversified into a variety of businesses that included stamping metal bumpers, financial services, manufacturing, apparel, home and consumer products, agricultural, auto parts, natural resources, building products, entertainment, and publishing. A partial list of Gulf and Western's holdings between 1958 and 1982 with the year of acquisition in parentheses:

With the Paramount acquisition, Gulf and Western became parent company of the Dot Records label and the Famous Music publishing company, created in 1928 by Famous-Lasky Corp., Paramount's predecessor. After Stax was acquired, that label became a subsidiary of Dot, although Dot was not at all mentioned on the 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.

In 1967, the company also purchased Lucille Ball's Desilu Productions library, which included most of her television product, as well as such properties as Star Trek and Mission: Impossible, both of which would rank amongst its most profitable commodities over the years. Desilu was renamed Paramount Television.

Gulf and Western sold Stax back to its original owners in 1970, and 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 Paramount Records label unrelated to the film 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 television 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 and Western sold the entire record operation to the American Broadcasting Company, which continued the Dot and Blue Thumb imprints as subsidiaries of ABC Records, while discontinuing the Paramount label altogether.

While working for Paramount, Barry Diller had proposed a "fourth network"; ultimately, the Paramount Television Service was cancelled six months prior to launch by Bluhdorn, who feared a major loss of revenue had the network gone forward.[9] Diller later left Paramount for 20th Century Fox; that studio's new owner, News Corporation was interested in starting a network, which became the Fox Broadcasting Company.

Early 1980s

On June 5, 1980, Gulf and 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, 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.[10]

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

Martin Davis restructuring

Davis slimmed down the company's wilder diversifications and focused it on entertainment, and sold all of its non-entertainment and publishing assets. The idea was to aid financial markets in measuring the company's success, which, in turn, would help place better value on its shares. Though its Paramount division had done very well in recent years, Gulf and Western's success as a whole was translating poorly with investors. This process eventually led Davis to divest many of the company's subsidiaries.[11][12]

In 1983, Gulf and Western sold Consolidated Cigar Corporation to five of its senior managers. Also that year, Gulf and Western sold the U.S. assets of Sega to pinball manufacturer Bally Manufacturing. The Japanese assets of Sega were purchased by a group of investors led by David Rosen and Hayao Nakayama the year after. (Ironically, years later Paramount and Sega would co-produce movies based on Sega's flagship video game, Sonic the Hedgehog.)

In 1984, Gulf and Western divested itself of its many Taylor Forge operations to private owners. Taylor Forge's Somerville, New Jersey plant became Taylor Forge Stainless, while its facilities in Paola, Kansas and Greeley, Kansas became Taylor Forge Engineered Systems. South Puerto Rico Sugar Co. was sold to an investment group including The Fanjul Brothers in 1984.[13]

In 1985, the consumer and industrial products branch -- consisting of APS auto parts, Kayser-Roth clothing and Simmons Bedding -- were sold to the Wickes Companies. The company, thus restructured, renamed itself Paramount Communications in 1989, and sold The Associates to the Ford Motor Company.[14]


Prior to 1970, the headquarters was on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.[15]

The Gulf and Western Building (15 Columbus Circle in Manhattan) by Thomas E. Stanley, was built in 1970 for the Gulf and 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 583 feet (178 m), it commands the dramatic view to the north, as well as its immediate surroundings.

The top of the building sported a restaurant, The Top of the Park, which was never a full success even though run by Stuart Levin, famous for the Four Seasons, Le Pavillon, and other "shrines of haute cuisine,"[16] and it being graced with Levin's own elegant signature sculpture by Jim Gary, "Universal Woman."

Similarly, the cinema space in the basement named Paramount after the picture company that Gulf and 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, even leading to cases of nausea akin to motion sickness.

The 1997 renovation into a hotel and residential building, the Trump International Hotel and 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.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Gulf + Western Inc. | American corporation". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  2. ^ "Business Briefs", Detroit Free Press, October 24, 1958, p. 34.
  3. ^ "History of GULF & WESTERN INC.", Reference for Business.
  4. ^ "Gulf & Western Agrees to Merger". Toledo Blade. April 14, 1966. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  5. ^ "South Porto Rico Sugar Company v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue".
  6. ^ Government House (1920). United States War Department Annual Reports, 1920, Volume III, Nineteenth Annual Report of the Governor of Porto Rico, Appendix II. Report of the Executive Secretary of Porto Rico, Statement No. 6.--List of domestic corporations in legal existence on June 30, 1920, p 97. San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  7. ^ Maldonado, Deborah (May 19, 2011). "Multi-genre Reasearch(sic): The Sugar Cane Industry in Puerto Rico". Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  8. ^ "Whitecroft finds buyer for Ryder". The Glasgow Herald. March 4, 1981. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  9. ^ Vespoli, Chris. "Dead Air: A Timeline of Failed Broadcast TV Networks". Gawker. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  10. ^ "Energy Flashes". Mother Earth News. January–February 1981. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
  11. ^ "Martin Davis, 72; Created Modern Paramount". The New York Times. October 6, 1999.
  12. ^ Prince, Stephen (2000) A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980–1989 (p. 60-65). University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles, California. ISBN 0-520-23266-6
  13. ^ Cole, Robert J. (October 6, 1984). "Sugar Sale By G.&W". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  14. ^ Williams, Linda (April 10, 1989). "Gulf & Western Wants Buyer for Finance Division : Paramount's Parent Plans to Change Name, Focus on Entertainment, Publishing". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 26, 2013. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  15. ^ "Young Filming Chief At Par". Variety. October 29, 1969. p. 3.
  16. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (December 21, 1994). "Stuart Levin, 64, an Operator of Elegant Restaurants is dead". The New York Times.