13 Israelis make 'Forbes' billionaires list

Brothers Idan and Eyal Ofer rank as the wealthiest Israelis after inheriting their father Sammy's fortune.

Eyal Ofer 390 (photo credit: REUTERS/Havakuk Levison)
Eyal Ofer 390
(photo credit: REUTERS/Havakuk Levison)
Thirteen Israelis appeared on Forbes magazine’s annual list of global billionaires on Thursday, led by brothers Idan and Eyal Ofer – who ranked 161st and 173rd, with respective fortunes of $6.2 billion and $5.8b.
The two brothers split the inheritance equally after their father, shipping magnate Sammy Ofer, died in June 2011. But Forbes ranked Idan higher than his older brother, as it was able to confirm Idan’s public stakes in Israel Corp. and Pacific Drilling; but applied more conservative valuations to Eyal’s less transparent private holdings.
A record 1,226 individuals, with a combined net worth of $4.6 trillion, made this year’s list.
Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu ranked first with $69b., ahead of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ($61b.) and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett ($44b.) – whose portfolio includes Israeli metal-working tool company Iscar.
Beny Steinmetz was the second wealthiest Israeli, ranking 169th with a fortune of $5.9b. Steinmetz transferred $100 million to his real estate company Scorpio last year, in exchange for rescheduling debt payments until 2018. He also sold 51 percent of his iron-ore company in Guinea to Brazil’s Vale for $2.5 b.
The other Israelis were: Iscar founder Stef Wertheimer (255th, $4.2b.); Bank Hapoalim owner Shari Arison (288th, $3.9b.); Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan (290th, $3.8b.); Kazakhstan-based mining mogul Alexander Machkevich (418th, $2.7b.); software entrepreneur Gil Shwed and Delek Group’s Yitzhak Tshuva (both 683rd, $1.9b.); Africa-Israel Chairman Lev Leviev (764th, $1.7b.); Shwed’s former partner Marius Nacht and Playtech founder Teddy Sagi (both 1,015th, $1.2b.); and Amdocs original investor Morris Kahn (1,153rd, $1b.).
Shari Arison was the only Israeli woman to appear on the list, although she fell 88 spots from last year after Forbes devalued her fortune by $1.2b. Last year she purchased her brother Micky’s shares in Arison Holdings, the investment company their father Ted left to them. Arison also owns a large share in Carnival Cruises – owner of Costa Concordia, the ship that ran aground off the cost of Italy in January.
Four Israelis dropped off the annual list this year, including: Michael Federmann; Michael Strauss; Shlomo Eliahu; and Nochi Dankner. Eliahu, Bank Leumi’s largest shareholder, announced Wednesday that he had struck a deal with Italian company Generali to purchase control of Israeli insurance firm Migdal Insurance for $1.1b.
One of the most notable names on the 2012 list, from an Israeli perspective, was Sheldon Adelson, who ranked 14th with a net worth of $24.9b. The 78-year-old American casino mogul owns the free Israeli daily Israel Hayom, and actively donates to numerous Jewish causes.
In December he donated $5m. to Taglit-Birthright – doubling his annual contribution to the organization and allowing 2,000 more Jews to tour Israel this winter on its programs.
The Middle East is now home to 43 billionaires. In addition to the 13 Israeli citizens, there were eight billionaires from Saudi Arabia; seven from Egypt; six from Lebanon; five from Kuwait; and four from the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who invested $300m. in Twitter in December via the secondary market, ranked 29th with a net worth of $18b. Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri ranked 764th with $1.7b.