Eric Samson, S. African Jewish giant and philanthropist, dies in Newport

Samson's fortune was valued at $1.1 billion.

Eric Samson is seen addressing a Keren Hayesod fundraiser at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eric Samson is seen addressing a Keren Hayesod fundraiser at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
South African steel tycoon and philanthropist Eric Samson died at his Newport, California home on Tuesday at the age of 83.
“Eric was a visionary leader and nation-builder and a man of unsurpassed generosity, one whose multifaceted legacy will benefit our country long into the future,” the South African Jewish Board of Deputies said in a statement.
“Innumerable organizations and individuals benefited from his support throughout his life. This was true not just for the South African Jewish community – of which he was a devoted member – but for the people of South Africa as a whole, and for the State of Israel.”
Samson’s fortune, made primarily from steel and real estate assets he amassed through his Macsteel holding company, was valued at $1.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
In 1998, he purchased 49% of Iskoor, then a joint venture between Iscor, a state-owned South African steel producer, and the Israel-based Koor Industries, and soon gained full control of the combined company.
He and his wife, Sheila, donated millions of dollars to Keren Hayesod, the Barzilai Medical Center and the Eric and Sheila Samson New Emergency Surgical Hospital in Ashkelon, the Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital and The Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize, a prestigious international award which grants a million dollars annually for groundbreaking innovation in the fields of smart mobility and alternative fuels for transportation.
He was a close friend and supporter of the late South African president, Nelson Mandela, as well as current President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was part of a consortium that bought a quarter of his flagship business, Macsteel Service Centres SA, in 2006.
The Samsons divided their time between Cape Town, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. He served on the board of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund for two decades and donated a million rand to it every July to mark the South African leader’s birthday.
Samson is survived by his wife and three children, Dorothy, Frankie and Jeffrey, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.