Leading industrialist Bruno Landsberg, who in 1961 founded Sano, Israel’s major producer of detergents and household and office cleaning products, died on Thursday at age 97.
The dapper Landsberg, who loved to socialize, but who modestly stayed in the background, was on numerous high society and diplomatic guest lists. In a little over half a century, he made a significant contribution to the nation’s economy, and in recognition of this was awarded the Manufacturer’s Prize by the Israel Manufacturers Association and a Life Achievement award by the Israel Marketing Association.
Landsberg, who was born in Czernowitz, Romania, (now part of Ukraine) in 1920, grew up in a single parent family, his father having died when he was two. When he was 14, the family moved to Bucharest.
As the Nazi conquest spread across Europe, the young Bruno had some premonition of what might befall the Jews of Romania and in 1940 the family left Bucharest and moved to the USSR where he studied literature in Bukhara.
It was there that he married and where his son Alex was born.
Landsberg returned to Bucharest in 1944 and joined the antifascist underground movement.
After the war, he and a cousin founded a small textile plant that was subsequently nationalized by the Communists.
After that, Landsberg decided that there was no future for him in Romania and in March 1952 arrived with his wife and son in Israel.
He got a job with Kadimah Chemicals Corporation, now known as Kleen, which manufactured cleaning products.
Initially he worked as a salesman, and later became an independent marketer of the company’s products and those of other manufacturers, after taking out a mortgage on his assets in order to establish the Southern Marketing Company in 1959. To create awareness of his company in the business community, Landsberg gave lectures on management and marketing.
In 1961, Landsberg won an international marketing scholarship to Harvard.
On completion of the course, he returned to Israel and launched Sano, a brand name that has since become familiar to almost every Israeli.
The brand name is based on the Latin phrase Mens sana in corpore sano, which usually translates as “a healthy mind in a healthy body.”
Limited in funds, he opened a small scouring powder plant in Bat Yam. He had one machine and four employees.
The scouring powder was used to clean toilets. From such humble beginnings, he built a multi-million dollar empire.
The company gradually expanded, and moved to its permanent premises in Hod Hasharon in 1973. It has subsidiary plants in Netanya, Kibbutz Snir, Emek Hefer and in Eastern Europe.
Sano went public in 1982 and traded its shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Over the years Sano acquired several other companies and produces consumer goods not only under its own brand name but under other brands as well.
Its product range includes more than 2,000 items in the categories of toiletries and hygiene products, disposable diapers, incontinence products for adults, household cleaning products, laundry detergents, pesticides and insect repellents, cosmetics and various paper products.
The company employs close to 2,000 people.
Aside from prizes that Landsberg himself received, the company also won many awards for meeting the highest production standards.
Three years ago, at age 94, Landsberg stepped down from the chairmanship of Sano’s board of directors and was succeeded by his son Alex.
His grandchildren also hold important positions in the company as did his late daughter Eva.
An avuncular figure, Landsberg was treated that way by his employees who called him “Mr. Bruno.” Landsberg never lorded it over his employees.
Possibly in memory of the days when he too was a simple employee, he had great respect for the worker and treated all his employees as if they were extended members of his family.
He was also a great philanthropist who donated huge sums of money to cultural entities such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israeli Opera as well as to lesser-known cultural institutions.
He was one of nature’s gentlemen, never pushy, often standing to the side and observing the human condition, but for all that a personality who could not be ignored.