13 Israelis Make Forbes’ Billionaire List

Idan Ofer, one of the world’s wealthiest people (and the richest Israeli, according to Forbes) is also chairman of Better Place, a venture-backed American-Israeli company based in Palo Alto, California that aims to develop and sell transportation infrastructure that supports electric vehicles. (Photo credit: Better Place,  www.betterplace.com)The newly released list of global billionaires compiled by Forbes Magazine for the year 2012 features 13 Israelis, who collectively represent a broad range of business ventures and professional endeavors.

The highest-ranking Israeli on the list is Idan Ofer, who came in 161st out of 1,226 billionaires worldwide, with an estimated total wealth of $6.2 billion. As Director of Ofer Group, which he inherited from his late father Sammy who built the corporation, Idan Ofer oversees a business conglomerate that includes interests in shipping (the world-famous Zim shipping lines), chemicals, aviation, high-tech, private equity and media. Idan’s quarter-century of experience in shipping, energy, chemicals, production and development in Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States is enabling him to decisively lead Ofer’s expansion into new ventures and future technologies. Moreover, Idan serves as Chairman of Better Place LLC, an electric vehicle infrastructure developer. Adding to his public prestige, Idan Ofer holds a Fellowship at London Business School and sits on its European Regional Advisory Board. He is also a member of the Global Advisory Board of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The second-highest rated Israeli billionaire on the Forbes list is Beny Steinmetz, who has earned his $5.9 billion through real estate and diamond mining, via his company BSG Investments. According to Globes, Steinmetz is planning a public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange of the largest diamond mine in Sierra Leone at a value of $2 to 3 billion. In 1997, Steinmetz founded STI Ventures NV, a venture capital firm that invests in start-up companies in Israel. With his company Scorpio, he owns real estate in Kazakhstan, Russia, and eastern Europe. Together with his wife, Steinmetz oversees the Beny & Agnes Steinmetz Foundation, which donates to schools, hospitals, army units and the arts.

The third-wealthiest Israeli billionaire on the Forbes list is Eyal Ofer, Idan’s brother, who—with a total income of $5.8 billion—has made most of his earnings from real estate in England and the United States. Eyal has over thirty years of diverse experience in international maritime transportation and private real-estate businesses worldwide. A pioneer throughout Central and Eastern Europe over the past decade, where he has created a sizable real estate portfolio, Eyal Ofer’s emerging market experience covers developments, acquisitions, and sales of office, residential, hotel, industrial, and retail assets spanning across Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, among other countries. Since 1996, Ofer has served as co-chairman of Miller Global Properties, LLC, a large real estate investment fund focusing on North America and Europe. Separately, he has been a member of the board of directors of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. since 1995.

The fourth highest-ranking billionaire from the Jewish state on the annual Forbes list is Stef Wertheimer, who is worth $4.2 billion. A German-born entrepreneur and industrialist, Wertheimer is also a former Member of the Knesset, and is well known for founding industrial parks in Israel and neighboring countries. Wertheimer is the owner of ISCAR, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of carbide industrial-cutting tools, which are used by automobile manufacturers such as General Motors and Ford. ISCAR boasts branches in over 50 countries worldwide. Wertheimer also heads Blades Technology Ltd., one of the largest manufacturers of blades and vanes for jet engines and industrial gas turbines. Blades Technology’s customers include Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, Techspace Aero, to name just a few major companies. Blades Technology is worth an estimated $1 billion. As a result of his impressive business achievements and civic-minded endeavors, Wertheimer was awarded the Israel Prize in 1991 for his special contribution to society and the State of Israel.

Coming in at number five among Israeli billionaires on the Forbes list is Shari Arison, with a total of $3.9 billion. The owner of Bank Hapoalim and the largest stockholder in Israel’s largest construction firm, she is the daughter of famous Israeli businessman Ted Arison who founded a number of international cruise lines. Shari has a major interest in one of those lines, Carnival Cruises, and she is also the founder of Miya, the Arison Group’s global water company. In 2009, Arison sponsored Israel’s third annual “Good Deeds Day” in which her non-profit organization, Ruach Tova, inspired thousands of Israelis to get involved in volunteering across the country.

The sixth richest Israeli billionaire according to Forbes is Arnon Milchan, worth $3.8 billion, who is one of the most prolific independent movie producers in the history of Hollywood. Milchan’s films include Pretty Woman, The War of the Roses, Under Siege, Unfaithful, L.A. Confidential, and many others. The owner of the Israeli network which transmits Israeli television programming to the United States and Canada, Milchan is also a partner in Israel’s all-news cable Channel 10. In his “previous life,” Milchan was also a former key Israeli intelligence operative from the mid-1960’s to the mid-1980’s.

The seventh highest-rated Israeli billionaire on the annual Forbes list is Kazakhstan-born Alexander Mashkevich, who has a net worth of $2.8 billion, which he has accrued through successful businesses in mining and metals. Mashkevich joined with two fellow billionaire Kazakh businessmen to form a group that gained control of the recently privatized chromium, alumina, and gas operations in Kazakhstan (some of the largest ones in the world). Mashkevich is a major shareholder in Eurasian National Resources Corporation (ENRC), now one of the world’s leading natural resources groups. Mashkevich currently serves as President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, one of the five regional branches of the World Jewish Congress. In this capacity, he has visited a number of synagogues around the world and met with many prominent individuals, including highly placed Israeli government leaders.

Gil Shwed, an Israeli programmer and entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, is ranked in eighth place among Israelis on the Forbes billionaires list, with assets totaling $1.9 billion. Shwed is the inventor of the modern Firewall for computer networks, and he holds several patents, such as the company’s Stateful Inspection technology.

With assets of $1.9 billion, Yitzhak Tshuva is tied with Gil Shwed among Israeli billionaires on the Forbes list this year. His corporation, Delek Group, is involved in energy and infrastructure, with investments in oil and gas production, upstream and downstream energy, water desalination and power plants. Delek Group’ subsidiaries are also involved in insurance and financial services. Delek is also a major real estate firm and the largest automobile dealer in Israel.

The tenth-highest rated Israeli billionaire on the Forbes list for 2012 is Lev Leviev, who is worth $1.7 billion. A Bukharian-Israeli, Leviev has earned his fortune in the diamond industry, real estate and chemicals. One of the most prominent Mizrahi Jews in the world, and a major philanthropist for Jewish causes in Eastern Europe and Israel, Leviev received blessings for business success and the personal support of the Lubavitcher Rebbe for his philanthropic activities. Leviev sponsors many of the activities of the Jewish Learning Inititative, and he is also involved in the construction of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria. Moreover, Leviev serves as president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, an umbrella body representing Jewish communities across the former Soviet Union.

With total assets of $1.2 billion, Marius Nacht is the eleventh-highest ranked Israeli billionaire on the Forbes list this year.  Nacht co-founded cyber security firm Check Point Software. A veteran of Talpiot, an elite division of the Israeli army, Nacht has degrees in Physics and Mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and in Electrical Engineering and Communication Systems from Tel Aviv University.

Coming in at a tie with Nacht is Teddy Sagi, who founded Playtech, a gaming software development company. The company provides software for online casinos, online poker rooms, online bingo games, online sports betting, scratch games, mobile gaming, live dealer games and fixed-odds arcade games online.

The thirteenth-highest – and final – Israeli billionaire on this year’s Forbes list is Morris Kahn, who has a total worth of $1 billion. Kahn accumulated his wealth as an original investor in Amdocs, a customer-relationship management-and-billing software firm for large telecommunications outfits. Since cashing out Amdocs in 1988 went the company went public, Kahn now focuses his business acumen on venture capital and philanthropy in Israel. As principal of Aurum Ventures, he has invested in numerous emerging life-science and tech companies such as Atlantium, which specializes in water disinfection, and N-Trig, which produces a multi-touch screen for computers. Kahn is also the cofounder of Coral World International, a string of aquariums in such locations as the Bahamas and Australia.

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