Business Scene

Shari Arison and Arkadi Gaydamak are the two richest Israelis.

shari arison 88 (photo credit: )
shari arison 88
(photo credit: )
ADDING TO his diverse list of business investments, Arkadi Gaydamak, the Moscow-born owner of the Betar Jerusalem soccer team has become a media player in his native city. Gaydamak has purchased the veteranMoskovskiye Novosti, which also publishes an English edition - Moscow News, from MIG which is controlled by Vadim Rabinovich the head of the Ukrainian Jewish Congress. Rabinovich purchased the publication from Leonid Nevzlin of Menatep fame who, in turn, bought it from theatrical producer Alexander Vainshtein who had been interested in buying it back from Rabinovich. Gaydamak is the paper's fourth owner in five years. A highly popular newspaper in Communist times when it sold as many as a million copies, the publication's sales plunged to only 100,000 after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Gaydamak has been reported as keen to transform it from a weekly to a daily. He also wants to expand the English edition so that it will have greater appeal to readers who are not literate in Russian. LONG-TIME former chairman of the First International Bank of Israel, Advocate Yigal Arnon is to be honored by the Hebrew University and the Friends of the Hebrew University in recognition of his manifold activities in the legal, economic and social spheres of Israel's development. Tributes to Arnon who has devoted more than half a century to serving his country in one way or another, will be delivered at a gala dinner at the David Intercontinental Hotel, Tel Aviv, on November 5. Arnon is a former chairman of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University and a former president of the Israel friends of the University. Proceeds from the dinner will fund the establishment of the Yigal Arnon Scholarship Fund for undergraduate students in financial need. Arnon was the chairman of FIBI when it was owned by the Safra brothers who concluded their investments in Israel by selling their Cellcom stock to Nochi Dankner. But now, according to media reports, the Safras want to get back into the fray and have expressed an interest in buying Bank Leumi. AT THIS time of the year, the Hebrew media publish special supplements listing Israel's richest and most influential people. Shari Arison tops the Maariv list of the 100 most affluent Israelis, just as she did in 2003 and 2004, but in The Marker's list of the 100 most influential people in Israel, she ranks way down in the 85th position. It's possible that her influence may wane even more. Rumor has it that after she sells off her 35.5% stake in Housing and Construction Holding Co. (Shikun U'Binui), she may decide to divest herself of additional Israeli investments. The next nine people after Arison on the Maariv list were Arkadi Gaydamak, up from 8th place in 2004 with an estimated fortune of NIS 16 billion (a little short of the NIS 18.45b. attributed to Arison); diamond tycoon and Africa Israel chairman Lev Leviev, down from second place with NIS 15.7b.; entertainment and communications mogul Haim Saban listed for the first time with estimated wealth of NIS 14.4b.; Sami Ofer, down from third place last year with NIS 13b.; Stef Wertheimer, down from fourth place with NIS 12.5b.; Michael Chernoy, down from fifth place with NIS 9.98b.; Morris Kahn, down from seventh place with NIS 8.26b.; Yitzhak Tshuva, up from 12th place with NIS 6.5b.; and diamond billionaire Benny Steinmetz who is negotiating to buy out Arison's Housing and Construction shares and is said to be worth NIS 6,15b. The 100th place on the list is held by high tech baron Roni Anav, down from 88th place after his fortune dwindled to NIS 540 million. Ranked 99th, and on the list for the first time, is real estate developer Alfred Akirov with NIS 550m. Akirov, whose assets include the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, recently hosted a group of prominent business associates and their spouses at the hotel at his expense and organized for them to tour the city, which was a nice way to boost domestic tourism to the capital. Nochi Dankner, whose name appears in business columns across the nation almost every day, ranks only 44th in the Maariv list with NIS 1.46b., but last year he was in 61st place, so that's a major improvement. The Marker puts him in the top 10, ranking him second only to Ariel Sharon in the sphere of influence. The next eight people on The Marker's list are vice premier Ehud Olmert, Yitzhak Tshuva, Haim Saban, Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, Finance Ministry director-general Yossi Bachar, Israel Corporation chairman Idan Ofer, Lev Leviev and his Africa-Israel managing director Pini Cohen and the heads of Israel's private brokerage firms. What's most interesting to see is who closes the list. The 100th slot was allotted to former prime minister, former finance minister and former foreign minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Is that a subtle way of writing has-been? GERMANY IS well known for its beautiful porcelain, much of which is produced in Dresden. But, surprisingly, at the 15th anniversary celebrations of German Unity hosted by German Charge d'Affaires Cyrill Nunn, the souvenir mugs bearing Hebrew and German inscriptions to signify 40 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany were made in - you guessed it - China. Deputy Minister to Shimon Peres, Orit Noked noted that Germany is Israel's best trading partner in Europe. Both she and Nunn observed the special relationship that exists between the two countries whose ties were forged against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Acknowledging that few would believe that such close, multi-level relations were possible, Nunn quoted Israel's founding prime minister David Ben Gurion who said that whoever does not believe in miracles is not a realist. After the recent German elections quipped Nunn, Israel and Germany are becoming more alike. For the sake of the stability of the German Government, he hoped that Germany would take a leaf out of Israel's book and study the benefits of rotation. Germany's ambassador to Israel Rudolf Dressler completed his tour of duty and left Israel with little fanfare. Nunn has also completed his tour of duty and attended a round of farewell parties, but has remained briefly to hold the fort. No new ambassador can be appointed until the new German Government comes into office. TEL AVIV is about to lose one of its most colorful markets. Shuk Bezalel, with its bargain priced clothing, accessory, giftware and food stores, has for decades been a magnet for consumers living on very limited budgets. A favorite game of both consumer and fashion writers was to see how far a certain low sum of money could go in the Bezalel Market. The results were often amazing. But Bezalel Market's days are numbered. A tender for a 99-year lease for the 1.35 dunam site that was published by the Tel Aviv Municipality has been won by Dankner Investments for the sum of $6m., which is really chicken feed compared to how much will be realized from the implementation of the urban building plan for the site that allows for the construction of 125 apartments plus commercial facilities and public areas. One of the conditions of the tender is that the winner must complete the project within three-and-a-half years. The Bezalel Market is in the heart of a busy, commercial area. AS FOR diplomatic relations between Israel and the People's Republic of China which reach back only 13 years, trade between the two countries is booming. According to Chinese Ambassador Chen Yonglong, bilateral trade has almost doubled since 2002, and is expected to do so again by 2008 when anticipated trade figures will be in the realm of $5b. While diplomatic ties between the two countries have been conducted for a relatively short period of time, relations between China and the Jewish people cover centuries of history. Jewish merchants traveled the Silk Road hundreds of years ago. In the 12th century, there was an active Jewish community in China and during the Holocaust China was a place of refuge for Jews who had succeeded in escaping the Nazis.