The Richest Men in Israel

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Despite being a relatively new country, Israel has one of the most developed economies of the world. To a great extent it owes to a long tradition of Jewish financiers and entrepreneurs but many among them have also made their fortunes in shipping, high-tech, diamonds, movies and industry. Here is a brief account of the richest men in Israel today.

  1. Idan Ofer

    Younger son and heir of shipping magnate Sammy Ofer who was once the richest man in Israel, Idan Ofer is the current claimant to the coveted title with a net worth $6.2 billion which is also enough to place him in the 161st position among the world’s billionaires, according to Forbes1. Idan is the principal of Quantum Pacific Group, which holds the Ofer stake in Israel Corporation, the largest public holding company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange; and Pacific Drilling SA, which went public on the NYSE last year. He is also chairman of Better Place, the Silicon Valley electric car infrastructure startup. The brothers' fortunes were equal upon their father's passing, and their spokesmen claim that their fortunes are still virtually equal. However finance agencies like Forbes have apply more conservative valuations to Eyal's less transparent private holdings as compared to Idan's public stakes in Israel Corp and Pacific Drilling2.

    Apart from the vast assets in shipping, banking and real estate inherited from their father, the Ofer brothers have also received Sammy Ofer’s magnificent art collection that is believed to be one of the most expensive in private hands. 57 year old Idan lives in Te Aviv; he is married and is father of five children.

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  2. Benny Steinmetz

    The second richest man in Israel is Benny Steinmetz with a net worth of $5.9 billion. Benny Steinmetz acquired his fortune through real estate and mining, notably in diamonds through his company BSG Investments. Even though he inherited his fortune, Steinmetz helped it grow as chairman of the Geneva-headquartered Steinmetz Diamond Group, which is De Beers’ largest customer. Supplying diamonds in the rough, Steinmetz has diamond mining licenses in Botswana, the Congo, Sierra Leone and Zambia. The mining magnate also has stakes in Nikanor, a holding company that owns copper and cobalt mines in the Congo. Among his other companies are BSGR which is involved in natural resources, oil and gas as well as Five Mounts Properties, a European real estate firm.

    The fifty-four billionaire maintains homes in Israel, Africa and Belgium. He is married and father of four children. With his wife, Steinmetz oversees the Beny & Agnes Steinmetz Foundation, which donates to schools, hospitals, army units and the arts.
     
  3. Eyal Ofer

    The older son of Eyal Ofer closely follows as the third wealthiest man in Israel with a net worth of $5.8 billion. Like his younger brother Idan, Eyal owes his fortune to inheritance from father Sammy Ofer, shipping magnate and himself the richest man in Israel till his death in 2011. He has since taken on the family's stake in Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Mizrahi Tefahot bank, and the family's international real estate, including the Altria Building and 15 Central Park West in New York.

    Unlike his younger brother Idan who lives in Tel Aviv, Eyal prefers to live in Monte Carlo, Monaco, close to the playing grounds of the rich and famous in the world.

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  4. Stef Wertheimer

    With his family, Stef Wertheimer enjoys a net worth of $4.2 billion, placing him firmly among the richest men in Israel. The self-made industrialist billionaire was born in Germany and fled to Israel to escape the Holocaust in 1937. He dropped out of school at the age of 16 and began working in a camera repair shop.

    After a stint in the British Royal Air force as a technician in 1943, he applied to work for defense company Rafael but was dismissed because of his lack of education. However, his strong penchant for tools paid off and in 1952, he started Iscar, a small tool-cutting factory, in the backyard of his home in Nahariya. In 2006, he sold an 80 percent share in Iscar to Warren Buffet for a cool $4 billion though he continues to maintain a 20% stake in the company, which his son currently runs. Apart from these he also seeds high-tech companies such as Blades Technology, which produces jet engine blades.

    The married father of four lives in the Galilee region of Israel and has built a number of industrial parks in Israel and around the world, including Tefen, which focuses on providing opportunities and jobs to minorities such as Arab Israelis. Wertheimer believes that industry and jobs can solve the war-torn country's conflicts. He was honored with Oslo Business for Peace Award in 2010 for these efforts.
     
  5. Arnon Milchan

    Though following Shari Alison on Israel’s list of richest individuals, Arnon Milchan is fifth richest man in the country with a net worth of $3.8 billion. The self-made billionaire has dealings in varied sectors though he is best known as the head of movie company New Regency and has been a producer for a number of Hollywood films including War of the Roses, Pretty Woman, Fight Club, Mr. and Mrs. Smith as well as the Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz starrer Knight and Day. Milchan in fact counts several Hollywood stars including Brad Pitt among his personal friends.

    Born in Tel Aviv in 1944, Milchan studied at the London School of Economics as well as at the University of Geneva and even dabbled in professional soccer before he took on his family's bankrupt fertilizer company and successfully transformed it into a $125 million business. Eventually he went on to diversify in agriculture, aerospace, animal health products, plastic, fiber optics and pharmaceuticals. Milchan is a staunch supporter of Israel and underwrites the Israeli Network, which transmits Israeli TV programming to the US and Canada. In 2009 he started an anti-terror company to protect friends and colleagues from global terror. A book released in July 2011, "Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan," delves into his former life and even has some labelling him as an "arms dealer" even though he is said to have preferred the term "consultant."3


References:

  1. Forbes - The World's Billionaires - Israel
     
  2. Forbes - Idan Ofer
     
  3. Forbes - Arnon Milchan