Stef Wertheimer 88 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Stef Wertheimer joined Shari Arison at the top of this year's Forbes 100 list of the wealthiest Israelis but it was the real estate players who were the big movers in 2006.
"This was an especially good year for property investors and we expect this trend to continue in 2007," said Boaz Bin-Nun, deputy editor of Forbes Magazine Israel. "Our estimation is that next year the gap between the top five will be even closer but it will be either Yitzhak Tshuva, Lev Leviev or Sami Ofer, who will be on top."
Arison, who has an approximate 16.4 percent controlling stake in Bank Hapoalim, held the title of Israel's richest person also in 2005 but her wealth dropped from $5.5 billion to $4.4b. this year due to a 10% decline in the share price of Carnival Cruise Lines, which she inherited from her father Ted Arison.
Meanwhile, Wertheimer's landmark $4b. sale of Iscar Corporation to Warren Buffet earlier this year brought his wealth total to $4.4b., the same level as Arison, moving him up from fifth place last year when his wealth was estimated at $2.5b.
Bin-Nun noted that the Buffet deal put a real value to Wertheimer's wealth for the first time as Iscar had always been a private company.
The big mover this year, however, was Tshuva, whose wealth quadrupled to $4b., jumping his status from 7th to 3rd in the rankings through his holdings in Delek Group and more particularly his real estate activities abroad.
Ofer's wealth grew from $3b. to $3.7b. in 2006 placing him in 4th position and Leviev, who owns Africa Israel Investments, ranked fifth having increased his pot from $2.6b. to $3.6b.
For next year all eyes will be on Tshuva, Ofer and Leviev "who are always doing things and looking for new ventures," according to Bin-Nun. "Wertheimer's deal was a one-off thing and the gap is closing on Arison."
At the same time, he added, both Tshuva and Leviev are planning to float real estate companies, in the US and Russia, respectively, and Ofer has a lot of cash on hand for investments next year.
The top 10 was completed by film producer Arnon Milchin in 6th place, followed by media mogul Haim Saban, diamond magnate Benny Steinmetz, Morris Kahan, owner of the Eilat Underwater Observatory Marine Park, and former Russian businessman Mikhail Chernoi.
The top 10 made up 46% of the total wealth of the 100 people listed, which this year amounted to $65b.
Forbes said the criteria for inclusion in the list stated that the businessmen should hold an Israeli passport, which excluded the likes of David Azrieli but included Saban, even though he lives in the US.