Israeli-American entrepreneur Avi Arad underwent numerous career changes before landing on the top of the Hollywood heap as the world's chief megaproducer of superhero-themed films -- and an extremely wealthy one at that. Early pre-studio jobs for Arad included being a soldier in the Israeli army, a toy designer, and a rental-car salesman; in time, he became one of Tinseltown's most powerful players.
The Cyprus-born Arad reportedly learned to read by studying comic books as a young boy, which foreshadowed his subsequent involvement with the Marvel corporation. He emigrated from the Middle East to the U.S. in 1967 after fighting in the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, then set to work as a toy manufacturer in the early '70s, where he met future business partner Isaac Perlmutter, then a buyer of liquidated product. In time, a friendship blossomed between the two; after Perlmutter established himself as a corporate raider in the 1980s, the men joined forces in 1990 to acquire the Canadian Toy Biz company, and won a bid for an extremely profitable contract to manufacture Marvel toys. When Marvel filed for Chapter 11 in the late '90s, Perlmutter and Arad made a now-famous 320-million-dollar offer for the corporate giant (cash on the table) and eventually won Marvel in a legal shoot-out.
Beginning shortly after that acquisition, Arad used the movie division of the company and legendary licensing deals to help turn Marvel around from a bankrupt institution to one of the most lucrative and respected purveyors of filmed entertainment. Whereas Perlmutter dealt primarily with the financial end of the company, Arad demonstrated heightened interest in the creative end of movie production, making a host of inside decisions on every Marvel superhero picture. Under his aegis, the studio created such blockbusters as Blade (1998), Spider-Man (2002), X2: X-Men United (2003), Fantastic Four (2005), and The Incredible Hulk (2008).