Comment: A source of Anglo pride

The appointment of Dr. Jeremy Levin to CEO of Teva Pharmaceuticals is the first time a foreigner has headed the company.

Teva 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Teva 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
The news that Dr. Jeremy Levin is to be the new CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries provided us English-speakers with a good dose of “Anglo pride.”
It is the first time a foreigner has been appointed CEO of Teva and it signals a serious desire by Israel’s largest company to expand beyond generic drugs into a global pharmaceutical firm.
Levin, 58, is a South African-born, British-educated physician who has lived in the US since 1986 and most recently served as a top executive at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
At Monday’s news conference at the Tel Aviv Hilton, Levin surprised reporters by speaking in Hebrew (which he learned when he once lived in Israel) and declared that Teva would indubitably remain an Israeli company.
“My Hebrew will improve, but in the meantime, I assure you I won’t be selling in Hebrew,” he quipped. “I’m excited about coming to live in Israel. I feel that I’ve come back home.”
In 2005, Levin was presented by Shimon Peres with the Albert Einstein Award for Leadership in Life Sciences.
Levin and his wife, Margery Feldberg, have two daughters and plan to make aliya.
According to a statement issued by Teva, Levin has more than 25 years of experience in the global pharmaceuticals industry, leading companies and people in the creation, development and delivery of medicines.
Before working at Bristol- Myers, he served as the global head of business development and strategic alliances at Novartis from 2003 to 2007.
He has a medical degree from Cambridge and a doctorate from Oxford in molecular biology, and previously worked as a practicing physician.
Levin will become CEO of Teva in May, replacing former IDF general Shlomo Yanai, who, in his 60th year, is said to be considering a new career in politics.
Eli Hurvitz, the iconic founder of Teva who was its CEO from 1976 to 2002, died in November at the age of 79.
Hurvitz, a former kibbutznik, turned the company into the world’s biggest generic-drug maker.
Another American, Phillip Frost, has served as Teva’s chairman of the board since March 2010.
“Dr. Levin is an exceptionally talented business leader with a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges of the pharmaceutical industry,” Frost said in a statement.
“As a business leader and as a physician, he is passionately committed to bringing effective treatments to patients worldwide. His combination of vision, creative energy and an effective team-building management style make him an ideal choice to lead Teva into its next growth phase.”
Levin is the latest in a long list of prominent Anglos in the business world.
The most noteworthy is Stanley Fischer, the internationally respected governor of the Bank of Israel. Fisher was born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) but later became an American citizen.
He was a professor at MIT and chief economist at the World Bank before making aliya in 2005 to take the reins at the central bank.
Yet another American who has made his mark on the Israeli economy is Sheldon Adelson, who not only owns the country’s largest newspaper (Israel Hayom), but is also a generous philanthropist.
Together with his Israeli wife, Miriam, Adelson is a major contributor, inter alia, to Birthright Israel and Yad Vashem.
Then there is the New Yorkborn Shari Arison, who is Israel’s wealthiest woman. She has the controlling shares in Bank Hapoalim and runs a non-profit organization, Ruach Tova, which encourages Israelis to do volunteer work.
Another New York-born businessman who has had an enormous impact on Israel is Ron Lauder, the charismatic president of the World Jewish Congress who is a part-owner of the debt-ridden Channel 10.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and local Anglos have had an impact on many spheres outside the business community. After all, we number between 250,000 and 300,000 of the Israeli population.
But every now and again, it’s nice to stop and bask in our collective glory. Thank you, Dr. Levin, for providing us with an opportunity to do so, and a moment of naches.