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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
FOR THE past three or four years it seemed that Nochi Dankner was buying into everything - banking, real estate, tourism, food, insurance, hi-tech, communications and then some. It was as if he was trying to make his mark in the Guinness Book of Records both in terms of volume and diversity. Then came a series of exits, one of the largest being the sale last week of Azorim, one of Israel's three largest construction companies, to Shaya Boymelgreen, a North American real estate developer, banker and philanthropist.
According to media reports, the two men met in London last week and signed an agreement under which IDB Development's 64% controlling interest in Azorim would be transferred to Boymelgreen.
Best known in Israel as a senior partner in Africa Israel's North American operations, Boymelgreen, like Lev Leviev, who holds the controlling interest in Africa Israel, is a Chabad Hassid who gives generously to many Chabad projects.
Boymelgreen and Leviev are developing prestige properties in New York and Las Vegas.
Boymelgreen is also heavily involved in transforming downtown Manhattan into a residential paradise.
In 2005, Boymelgreen, together with Meir Eichler, a prominent Judaica retailer, launched the Liberty Pointe Bank, the first Shomer Shabbat bank under Lubavitcher ownership. The bank, located in the heart of New York's financial district, is also known as 'Bank Leubi', and its logo is remarkably similar to that of Bank Leumi.
Many businesses headed by Lubavitcher hassidim have moved their accounts to the bank, which prides itself on abiding by traditional Jewish values.
THE RUCTIONS that might have adversely affected the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange when Shari Arison, the chairperson of Arison Holdings announced that the company had purchased the shares of its CEO Shlomo Nehama for $150 million, were avoided because the announcement was published on Purim, a day on which there was no trading on the TASE. Nehama, who will step down from the position that he has held for 13 years at Arison Holdings will continue his relationship with the company in the capacity of a director on the company's Israel board. He will be replaced as company CEO by Efrat Peled, 31, who for the past two years served as CEO of the Arison family's overseas operations. Peled is a certified public accountant with an MBA degree. Nehama who is also chairman of Bank Hapoalim in which Arison is the major shareholder, will retain that position for another five years subject to the approval of other shareholders in the bank.
TWO COMPETING business enterprises that started out in Jerusalem and developed nationwide at a remarkably rapid pace will both be headquartered in Tel Aviv. The Aroma chain of coffee shops, founded by Yariv Shefa has been headquartered in Tel Aviv for the past couple of years. Its chief rival, the Hillel coffee shop chain, which began its operations on the capital's Hillel Street, just a few meters down the road from the first Aroma coffee shop, is also moving the core of its decision making process to Tel Aviv.
Both chains have numerous franchises spread out across the country, with plans for major expansions in the year ahead. The Hillel chain was launched in 1998 by father and son team Kobi and Yossi Sharf. The flagship of the chain is currently managed by Kobi Sharf's daughter Hanit. Other major competitors to Aroma and Hillel include Arcaffe, the Coffee Shop, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Starbucks, which has enjoyed enormous success in other parts of the globe, never really made the grade in Israel.
CLIENTS WHO can't make up their minds cause some of the greatest frustrations to architects. Even more frustrating perhaps are the bureaucratic hassles that delay the plans on the drawing board expressed in a miniature model from becoming an integral reality in a neighborhood, or in a particular city. Architects Dan Picker and Arthur Spector have been waiting a long time to see their designs for the Four Seasons hotel in Jerusalem develop into bricks and mortar. The project, planned to go up behind the Inbal hotel, and bordering the Liberty Bell Garden, has been delayed again and again for more than seven years. Residents of the neighborhood don't want another hotel in their midst, especially since there are more than half a dozen other hotels within five minutes walk of the site. Though mindful of the importance of tourism to the capital's economy, residents don't want to be troubled by the discomforts of at least two years of construction, followed by the presence of numerous tour buses in the area. They are sufficiently annoyed by the number of tour buses parked outside the Inbal. The objections of the residents have been largely ignored in the interests of progress, and the architectural plans have been amended again and again to overcome objections from other quarters. Now it seems that the show is finally on the road, and the foundations will soon be laid for the 10-story, $150 million project. Yet another hotel is planned for the undeveloped site alongside the Four Seasons, in addition to which the restoration and expansion of the former Palace Hotel, which for many years served the needs of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, will soon be underway. Much of the interior of the building has already been gutted.
WINNING A prize on merit is almost always an ego-boost. It was more so in the case of Prof. Lior Gepstein of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine at the Technion Institute of Technology and the Cardiology Department of the Rambam Medical center in Haifa, when he was named the first ever laureate of the newly established Douglas P. Zipes Prize. Launched by the American College of Cardiology, of which Zipes, a world renowned expert in cardiac arrhythmias is vice president, the prize is in recognition of outstanding contributions by young researchers to cardio-vascular knowledge. Gepstein was chosen from among 35 finalists with extremely impressive academic achievements to their credit.
The prize was awarded to him at the ACC's annual general meeting in Atlanta in the presence of 35,000 cardiologists.
TO ENCOURAGE budding talent in different areas of high tech, Motorola Israel awards scholarships to outstanding young students. This was once again the case last week at the School for Engineering of the Kinneret Academic College in the Jordan Valley. Aaron Mirsky, deputy CEO of Motorola awarded scholarships to the value of NIS 5,000 each to outstanding students in the fields of engineering, electricity and electronics. He also addressed them and spoke of developing trends in high-tech from the Motorola perspective.
DISCOUNT BANK management and workers' committee representatives will put aside their differences on March 29 to give a rousing send-off to outgoing chairman Aryeh Mintkevitz. Matthew Bronfman who earlier this year took over the controlling interest of the Bank will also be on hand, as will the bank's 5,000 employees. The farewell will be held in style at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds with comedian Eli Yatzpan acting as Master of Ceremonies and introducing top-ranking entertainers such as Glykeria, who will specially come from Greece for the occasion, Boaz Sharabi, Shlomi Shabat, Ninette Taib and other big names. Riki Bachar, head of the IDB workers' committee recalled that initially there had been friction between Mintkevitz and the workers, but over the years they had formed a good working relationship with the aim of promoting the bank's best interests. Mintkevitz's contribution to the success of the bank was inestimable, said Bachar.