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Gulf and Western logo
|Industry||Clothing, entertainment, industry, mass media, publishing|
|Fate||Non-publishing/entertainment assets dismantled; renamed as Paramount Communications in 1989 after leading subsidiary Paramount Pictures|
|Founded||1934(as the Michigan Bumper Company)|
|Headquarters||New York, New York, United States|
|Charles Bluhdorn, Martin S. Davis|
|Owner||Charles Bluhdorn (1958)|
|Subsidiaries||Associates First Capital Corporation
Madison Square Garden
New Jersey Zinc
Simon and Schuster
South Puerto Rico Sugar Company
Gulf and Western's origins date to a manufacturer named the Michigan Bumper Company founded in 1934, although Charles Bluhdorn treated his 1958 takeover of what was then Michigan Plating and Stamping, as its "founding" for the purpose of later anniversaries.
The Michigan Bumper Company, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, manufactured metal bumpers for cars. Due to declining revenue, the company changed its name to Michigan Plating & Stamping to represent expanding scope in 1955. In 1956, Charles Bluhdorn gained enough of the companies stock to earn a seat on the board of directors.  In the companies first year as Gulf and Western, they lost $730 on sales of $8.4 million.
Under Bluhdorn the company diversified widely, leaving behind such things as stamping metal bumpers for a variety of businesses, including financial services, manufacturing, apparel and home, consumer and agricultural, auto parts, natural resources and building products, entertainment and publishing. A partial list of Gulf and Western's holdings between 1958 and 1982, with 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. 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 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 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", but he could not convince the board of trustees/directors of the wisdom of this idea. Fox owner News Corporation was, however, interested in starting a network.
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, 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.
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.
Davis slimmed down the company's wilder diversifications and focused it on entertainment, and sold all of its non-entertainment and non-publishing assets.
In 1983, Gulf and Western sold Consolidated Cigar Corporation to five of its senior managers.
Also in 1983, 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.
In 1984, Gulf and Western divested itself of its many Taylor Forge operations to private owners. Taylor Forge's Somerville, NJ plant became Taylor Forge Stainless, while its facilities in Paola, KS and Greeley, KS became Taylor Forge Engineered Systems.
In 1985, APS auto parts, Kayser-Roth clothing and Simmons Bedding were sold to the Wickes Companies. The company, thus restructured, subsequently renamed itself Paramount Communications in 1989, and promptly sold The Associates to the Ford Motor Company for $3.35 billion.
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," 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.