Meshulam Riklis, Israeli-American 'corporate takeover artist,' dies at 95

Born in Istanbul in December 1923 and raised in Tel Aviv, Riklis traveled to the United States in 1947 with his first wife Judith Stern.

January 26, 2019 10:39
1 minute read.
Meshulam Riklis

Corporate conglomerate billionaire & legendary financial tycoon, Meshulam Riklis (left) with dear friend & Riviera Vice-President, Sam Distefano (rt) celebrating Riklis' 65th birthday, Dec 2nd, 1988 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas.. (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)


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Israeli-American billionaire Meshulam Riklis died on Friday. He was 95.

Riklis, who passed away at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, was known for both pioneering the leveraged buyout and junk bond acquisitions of major companies, as well as for his role in securing a Golden Globe Award for his second wife Pia Zadora for her role in Butterfly, a film later slammed by critics.

Born in Istanbul in December 1923 and raised in Tel Aviv, Riklis traveled to the United States in 1947 with his first wife Judith Stern. He studied mathematics at Ohio State University before working as a junior stock analyst at Minneapolis-based investment firm Piper Jaffray.

Coined by some as a wheeling and dealing “corporate raider” and by others as a “corporate takeover artist” for his acquisitions based on borrowed finances, Riklis commenced building his business empire in the 1950s by purchasing sufficient stock to take control of and merge Rapid Electrotype Company and American Colortype Company into the Rapid-American Corp.

Through the corporation, Riklis spent two decades completing acquisitions, mergers and debt swapping before restructuring his assets under Riklis Family Corp., a privately-held conglomerate.

While many of the corporations under his ownership defaulted on their debt repayments and declared bankruptcy in the 1990s, Riklis maintained much of his personal wealth. In 2013, he filed for bankruptcy protection for Rapid-American due to debt caused by personal injury claims involving asbestos.

Outside of his business activities, Riklis was also infamous for seemingly buying the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s choice for the 1982 Golden Globe Award for “new star of the year in a motion picture” for his then-wife Pia Zadora in her performance in Butterfly, even before the movie – which he co-produced – was released in the US.

Riklis later admitted to wining and dining association members at his Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas prior to the awards.

In 1988, Riklis and Zadora were widely-criticized after purchasing and demolishing the iconic Pickfair Manor in Beverly Hills to build a larger “Venetian-style palazzo.” The couple divorced in 1993.

In 2010, Riklis married Tali Sinai, his third wife. She was nearly four decades his junior. Riklis is survived by four children.

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