Business Scene

VIPs flock to Namibia bar mitzva of Kobi Alexander's son.

Kobi Alexander 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Kobi Alexander 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
WHILE ISRAELIS are notorious for being ungracious about each other's successes, there's another side of the coin in which they're extremely forgiving of each other's peccadilloes and much more serious offences. Even those whose offences land them in prison are welcomed back into society with open arms, and treated as if they've been on vacation. This is especially so for people in high places, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that some of Israel's most prominent socialites and business people have accepted the invitation Tuesday to board a private plane bound for Namibia to celebrate the bar mitzva of the son of Kobi Alexander, the founder and former CEO of Comverse Technology, an Israeli start-up company which grew into a leading provider of software systems for telecommunications companies worldwide. After a four-year struggle in which it seemed as if his world would collapse, Alexander had a stunning breakthrough, and then went from success to success, building a global empire with 6,000 employees in more than 50 countries. He won numerous awards, rubbed shoulders with world leaders and international business tycoons until July, 2006, when he faced multiple charges by the US Justice Department of conspiracy to commit various types of fraud. A civil injunction was subsequently filed against him by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Alexander succeeded in transferring $40 million to his private bank account in Israel and fled with his wife and children to Namibia where he was arrested by Interpol, then released on bail, and is awaiting yet another extradition hearing which is scheduled for June, 2008. Meanwhile, he had developed close contacts with senior officials in Namibia and has invested heavily in the country, so it is unlikely that they will be in a hurry to give him up to the US authorities. He has also stayed in touch with Israeli friends and acquaintances, some of whom have visited him in Namibia, and more of whom will visit him today, according to a report in Yediot Aharonot. Invitees include public relations guru Ran Rahav and his wife Hila, advertising agent Yoram Bauman, Shmuel Frankel, the owner of Epsilon Investments, Yigal Shremeister, the owner of a security company, artist Ilana Gur, Carmel Varnia, the former CEO of Tower Semiconductors, and many others who are well known in the business world, and who in some cases went to school or university with Alexander. Aside from flying them to Namibia in his private plane, he will also treat them to a safari and to a community sing-along with Anat Saruf and her husband, Tamir Harpaz. nGERMAN CHANCELLOR Angela Merkel, with President Shimon Peres at her side, swept through Kibbutz Sde Boker but paused long enough for a quick chat with San Francisco-born Zvi Remak, the well-known vinter at the unusual Sde Boker Winery. "I handed her two bottles of wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot," said Remak. "She said she liked the wine, but she was just being polite," since she didn't taste it and was quickly rushed off to see the rest of the kibbutz. nPRESIDENT OF the Federation of Chambers of Commerce Uriel Lynn was in Norway last week at the behest of Israel Ambassador Miriam Shomrat in an effort to break the ice in the chilly economic relations between Israel and Norway which are becoming increasingly frostier. Trade relations between the two countries in 2007 represented only 0.1 per cent of Israel's foreign trade. Norwegian imports to Israel amounted to $63.5 million while Israeli exports to Norway amounted to $65 million - a total of $128.5 million compared to $131 million in 2006. Lynn attributed the deterioration in economic relations between the two countries to the political situation between Israel and the Palestinians, but tried to convince Norwegian business leaders that political differences should not be allowed to stand in the way of economic progress. In his address delivered under the title, "From a country of Milk and Honey to Hi-Tech and Money," Lynn attributed privatization, encouragement to compete, an increased labor force, structural changes in capital markets and the promoting of initiative as the key factors in Israel's economic success story. He emphasized that trade potential between Israel and Norway was enormous, and expressed the hope that his visit signified the beginning of a thaw in economic relations between the two countries. nBANK HAPOALIM is taking a very serious attitude to social responsibility. Aside from its annual art sale at its Tel Aviv headquarters, the proceeds of which go to organizations engaged in one form of another of community welfare, it recently donated NIS 240,000 towards the perpetuation of Ben Gurion's legacy. In addition, it has contributed NIS 950,000 towards Beit Izzy Shapiro which provides amazing therapies for children with special needs. The money will be allocated towards various projects within the framework of Beit Izzy Shapiro's activities. "People with special needs are like any other person. They have senses and desires and they are entitled to live an independent, dignified existence," said Zvi Ziv, Bank Hapoalim general manager, who has a special soft spot for children with special needs. "Beit Izzy Shapiro enables them to reach their potential," he said, in addition to which it teaches the wider public to be accepting of the other. nALSO DISPLAYING its social responsibility is Cellcom, which has made it possible for more children from economically disadvantaged households to have a Purim costume. For the second consecutive year, Cellcom has joined Rabbi Ya'acov Gloiberman of Lod in his Yad B'Yad (Hand in Hand) project to ensure that as many children as possible have Purim costumes. The company has donated 15,000 costumes to be distributed to children throughout the country. Cellcom CEO Amos Shapira went to Lod to check out the costume storage area and to ensure that the Cellcom costumes had arrived. nFOR THE second consecutive year, the prestigious magazine Institutional Investor has named Haim Israel, a research analyst with Merrill Lynch, as top analyst. According to an annual survey, Israel and Merrill Lynch received 40 per cent of the votes. Daniel Harvard of Deutsche Bank was ranked second with 22 per cent and Darren Shaw of UBS came third with 20 per cent. Israel joined Merrill Lynch in 2005 and in January, 2008 was promoted to deputy director of market research. One of his best recommendations was Israel Chemicals which in 2007 rose by more than 93 per cent.