Business Scene

Technion alumni Yehuda and Zohar Zisapel continue to support their alma mater at every opportunity.

zisapel center 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
zisapel center 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
PART OF the undoing of former chief of general staff Dan Halutz resulted from the Ma'ariv report that on the day the Second War in Lebanon erupted, Halutz was busy checking out his stock portfolio. Now it appears that he may become a lot more familiar with the stock market and its movers and shakers. Most Hebrew dailies reported on Sunday that Halutz was in an advanced stage of negotiations with Nochi Dankner to take over as CEO of IDB Holding Corp. subsidiary Starling Advanced Communications, a leading innovator in the field of mobile connectivity. As Israel's largest holding company, IDB directly or indirectly controls some of the major players on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in fields of telecommunications, banking, insurance, hi-tech and agro-chemicals. Although the findings of the Winograd Committee, as expressed in its report, may have initially caused Halutz some discomfort and heartache, the former Air Force ace appears to have emerged from the situation with little more than a scratch. IN OTHER IDB-related news Ganden Tourism and Aviation, (controlled by Dankner and Avi Fischer), which owns Israir, has announced that its new chairman of the board is Guy Rosen. In a joint statement released last week, Dankner and Fischer said Rosen's appointment reflects their respect for him and the confidence that they have in his ability to promote Israir's interests. Rosen has been working with Dankner and Fischer ever since they acquired the controlling interest in IDB four years ago. Rosen, 41, who worked as Fischer's right-hand man, is today a senior executive with Clal Industries and Investments and serves as a director on the boards of several companies BUSINESS TYCOON Yitzhak Tshuva is one of the most generous and consistent supporters of the Netanya Academic College, providing funds for new projects and contributing annually to a scholarship fund that over the years has benefited hundreds of students. Now he's a facing a little competition from billionaire Benny Steinmetz, who like Tshuva is a native of Netanya. Steinmetz has just donated 80 scholarships to NAC, and there's little doubt that more will follow. BRITISH BEER peer, Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder and chief executive of the Indo-British lager beer brand Cobra Beer, is in Israel on his first visit to the country. He will meet members of the foreign and Israeli business communities and familiarize himself with trade and economic issues with regard to Israel-Britain-India relations. During his visit he will also look for business opportunities. The Director of UK Trade & Investment at the British Embassy, Richard Salt, will host a reception for him and British Ambassador Tom Phillips will host a dinner in his honor. Lord Bilimoria's busy program includes meetings with Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and Vice Premier Shimon Peres. He will also meet the director-general of the Taybeh Brewing Company and visit Tempo Beer in Netanya to meet with chairman Rafi Baharaf. Lord Bilimoria was born in India, and at age 19 went to England to continue his education. After qualifying as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young in London and graduating in Law from Cambridge University, Lord Bilimoria turned his sights on the beer industry, and in 1989 created Cobra Beer, a premium lager specially brewed to have appeal to both ale and lager drinkers and to complement food. He was appointed to the House of Lords in 2006 by an independent Appointments Commission and serves as a crossbench peer. Cobra Beer is now one of the fastest growing beer brands in the UK, and one of the most innovative young companies in the country. The brand has a current retail value turnover of 96 million, is sold in nearly 6,000 Indian restaurants and is available to 6,000 bars, pubs and clubs throughout the UK. Cobra Beer was awarded 20 Gold Medals at the 2007 Monde Selection, Brussels, World Selection of Quality Awards - more than any other beer in the world for the third year in a row. Lord Bilimoria will cease to be CEO in August when he will become executive chairman of the company. The new CEO, appointed only this week, is Adrian McKean, who resigned from Beam Global Spirits & Wine UK to take up the position with Cobra. ALTHOUGH IT is technically located in Ramat Gan, it is known as the Tel Aviv branch of the State Bank of India, and it has been operational since March of this year. However, it was never officially inaugurated. That lacuna will be amended Thursday by the bank's chairman, who will be here for the inauguration ceremony in the Diamond Exchange complex in Ramat Gan where the bank is located in premises that measure 650 sq.m. This is the 74th overseas office of India's largest commercial bank, which has a group network of around 15,000 branches in India. The local branch will focus on financing businesses, especially the burgeoning Indo-Israel trade. It has an exclusive and secured diamond section and a separate spacious section for others. SBI is the only foreign bank in Israel engaged in diamond financing. SBI in India, which is a pioneer in many fields, including SME and agricultural financing, enjoys the patronage of over 90% of the corporates, and has a client base of 100 million. The Tel Aviv branch hopes to leverage on all its 200 year-old heritage and fundamental strengths to set new standards here. The local branch's chief executive officer is V. Sasikalam, its vice president for credit is Ravindra Misra and its vice president for operations is Arik Hybloom. TECHNION ALUMNI Yehuda and Zohar Zisapel continue to support their alma mater at every opportunity. The most recent gift of the two brothers, who are the founders RAD Data Communications which expanded into the RAD Group, is a research center in nanotechnology named for their parents the late Sarah and Moshe Zisapel. The brothers contributed $5 million to the project, which was inaugurated this week. At the inauguration ceremony, Yehuda Zisapel disclosed that people from the Technion came to him and his brother and asked them to contribute the cost of a floor in the faculty for electrical engineering. Zisapel's response was that this was inadequate, and that the brothers wanted to contribute a larger sum. This was an unexpected but pleasant surprise as it's usually their job to persuade donors to give more, and here persuasion was not needed. The Technion people came back with the concept of a center for nanotechnology, and since the two brothers work in advanced technology with an eye to the future, their response was instantly positive. The Zisapel brothers regularly contribute scholarships to Technion students, with only one stipulation - that after graduating, they remain in Israel and contribute to their university and to society in general. WHILE SOME business people attending a meeting this week with Israeli diplomats who will be taking up new posts in the summer had reservations about what those diplomats could do to help boost Israeli exports, others welcomed the Foreign Ministry initiative to bring the diplomatic and the business communities together for the economic benefit of the country. But even among those who did welcome the initiative, there were certain complaints about how things were handled in the past in the hope that there would be an improvement in the future. For instance Yair Feldberg, CEO of the Kfar Saba-based Q-Group, complained about the delay in processing a visa application for someone in Russia who was interested in coming to Israel to see how Q-Group operates. If senior diplomats want to facilitate Israel's economic relations with the rest of the world, said Feldberg, they must speed up the visa process. Ilan Maor, the director of the Foreign Ministry's Economic Department, who is the man behind the Foreign Ministry initiative, apologized to Feldberg and said there was a special fast-track for visa applications for business people. Feldberg also complained that Israel's diplomatic representatives abroad do not always have sufficient information to help potential Israeli exporters. He had been interested in obtaining specific information about a particular European country, he said, but could not find the data he was looking for on either Google or the CIA Web site, which does offer comprehensive information on all the countries in the world. The Israel Embassy in that country was likewise unable to help him, and when he applied to the relevant government office of the country in question, asking for the names of three or four firms in his particular field, he was asked to pay in excess of $1,000 for information that countries such as Germany are happy to supply free of charge. Feldberg said the Israel embassy should be able to provide such information for Israeli firms to save frustration and needless financial outlays. MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL Inc., Nickelodeon, a unit of Viacom International, Inc.'s MTV Networks, and Miller Global Properties LLC, an international real estate investment and development company co-chaired by Eyal Ofer, the son of Sami Ofer, have announced an agreement to co-develop a breakthrough new brand in resort hotels along with a concept aimed at attracting travelers seeking fun and adventure. The new brand, "Nickelodeon Resorts by Marriott," will take off in January 2008, with a planned ground-breaking ceremony for a 650-room resort at Liberty Station in San Diego. The partners in the agreement expect 20 upscale-self contained Nickelodeon Resorts by Marriott to be under construction by 2020. All the Nickelodeon Resorts will be managed by Marriott. The first is expected to open for business in 2010. The new brand will not be limited to the US; other destinations being considered include Caribbean and Mexican resort areas, the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. Marriott International announced last month that over the next three years it will add 16 hotels to its Middle East portfolio. These additions do not include Israel where Marriott recently opened a new office in Tel Aviv. Considering that Ofer's family is already in the Israel resort hotel business, it's possible that his relationship with Marriott International could lead to the opening of a Nickelodeon Resort in Israel. As yet, that's not on the books - but anything is possible.