A perfect fit

Eitan Wertheimer: It was love at first balance-sheet sight.

eitan wertheimer 88 (photo credit: )
eitan wertheimer 88
(photo credit: )
In a very friendly but reassuring voice, speaking naturally and without prompts, Eitan Wertheimer, the 53-year-old son of Stef Wertheimer and president of Iscar Ltd. explained in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post, in his modest nature, how a culture fit led to a success story with American billionaire Warren Buffett. How did it all start? Why Warren Buffett? "It took us two and a half years to decide how to advance Iscar to the next stage to be on a global terrain. We did our homework and came across Warren Buffett. We were impressed by the man's strong culture, which we found was a fit with our corporate culture, people and customers and above all to our family organization. So we decided we wanted to go ahead. So I sat down and wrote Warren Buffett a one-and-a-half page long letter detailing information on Iscar and providing the important graphs and figures - like for a first date. Shortly after sending the letter, Buffett got back to us. Next we arranged a meeting in Omaha and I came with CEO Jacob Harpaz and Danny Goldman, our CFO and provided Buffett with some more figures. We paid a visit to New York to talk to Buffett's business partner Charles T. Munger and then we flew back home. A month later on the first day of spring, I returned to the US. The deal was closed in a private meeting with Buffett on March 22, which lasted less than 20 minutes and Buffett said he wanted to complete the process by May 6, the date of Berkshire Hawathay's investors' meeting. It was the smoothest and most pleasant deal we ever did." What do you mean by corporate culture fit? "It is a culture based on trust, long-term prospects and love at first balance sheet sight" How do you buy a company without seeing it like Buffett did? "There were two factors. First, Buffett made an in-depth study of our audited numbers, facts and figures. Second, Buffett works by looking at the people, the culture and the nature of the business, where we immediately clicked. How do you feel about ceding control of Iscar? "I get a 100% teacher. I get to be a pupil of Warren Buffett." What are the plans for Iscar post deal? Where do you see the company in five years time? "I think our aim is to grow faster, to a high-growth company with high margins, for which we need further investment, which hopefully will be coming from Buffett. In five years time, Iscar will be much bigger in sales - that is big in business but keeping the intimate small family environment." Do you believe Buffett will be making further acquisitions in this country in the future? "I hope for many investments in the future. This deal certainly opens the door. But what we need not forget is that we still have to prove ourselves. We have received a pile of compliments. Now we need to make sure that we earn our compliments in the future." What do you plan to do with the proceeds from the sale? "I understand industry and business. This is what I know. So, some of the money will be channeled into new businesses. We are trying to be part of a better country here, so will be using some of the money for non-business activities." What advice can you give to Israeli entrepreneurs for completing a successful deal? What can Israeli companies learn from the Wertheimer way? "I am not clever enough to give advice but I can tell you one rule - that the heart must always be bigger than your pocket. What we can learn from this deal is that we can do much better than we have. You have to know your stuff, do your homework. If you don't know what you want, it's a waste of time."