Lev Leviev

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Lev Leviev
לב לבייב.JPG
Born Lev Avnerovich Leviev
July 30, 1956 (1956-07-30) (age 57)
Tashkent, Uzbek SSR, Soviet Union
Residence London, England, UK[1]
Ethnicity Mizrahi Jewish (Bukharian Jewish)
Citizenship Israel
Occupation Businessman, investor, philanthropist
Net worth Steady US $ 1.5 billion (est.)
(March 2013)[2]
Religion Sephardic Judaism
Spouse(s) Olga
Children 9

Lev Avnerovich Leviev (born July 30, 1956) is an Uzbek-born Israeli[3] businessman, philanthropist and investor, of Bukhari Jewish background. With a net worth of roughly $1.5 billion in March 2013,[2] he has been a major philanthropist for Hasidic Jewish causes in Eastern Europe and Israel.[4] Beginning in the 1990s, Leviev avoided being directly involved with the Yeltsin family, and nurtured ties with Vladimir Putin.[5][6] His diamond mining investments in Angola and his investments in Israeli settlements have been the target of protests.[7] A prominent member of the Bukhari Jewish community, he is president of the World Congress of Bukharian Jews.

Personal life[edit]

Leviev was born in Tashkent, Uzbek SSR in 1956, and today lives in London and Israel. His parents, Avner and Chana Leviev, were prominent members of the Bukharian Jewish community, and Leviev is a practicing Orthodox Jew. He is a supporter of the Chabad Hassidic movement although he is a Mizrahi Jew, brought up in the Sephardic liturgy. In 1971, when he was fifteen, his family emigrated from Uzbekistan to Israel. Shortly afterwards, Leviev began to work as an apprentice in a diamond polishing plant, learning the 11 steps of the diamond cutting process. After serving in the Israel Defense Forces, he established his own diamond polishing plant.

After the Revolutions of 1989, Leviev expanded his business endeavors into Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He received the blessings for success in business and personal support of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson for his philanthropic activities, which include "an army of some 10,000 Jewish functionaries from Ukraine to Azerbaijan, including 300 rabbis. Most of the 300 rabbis are Chabadniks" - adherents of the Brooklyn-based Chabad Hasidic group. In particular he sponsors many of the activities of the Jewish Learning Initiative.

Leviev moved to Hampstead, London, with his wife Olga, son Asher and their daughter, Ruthie, in 2007. As a keen follower of golf, Leviev also maintains a house in the beach resort of Ponte Vedra, Florida.[1]

Business interests[edit]

Leviev is an investor in the diamond industry, real estate and chemicals. Recently[when?], Leviev hoped to get into the incarceration business, as a concessionaire for the first private prison in Israel. However, the Israeli High Court of Justice declared private prisons unconstitutional in Israel.[8]

Leviev is currently controlling shareholder and chairman of Africa-Israel. Africa-Israel is on the verge of insolvency, asking to restructure NIS 21 billion of debt.[9] Trying to save the company from bankruptcy, justice Varda Alshech has confirmed the debt-restructuring arrangement between Africa-Israel and its creditors. However, the justice expressed her disapproval: "The arrangement is far from being the best," Alshech said, because the company "is passing on the damage of its investments to its investors."[10] Additionally, he is an international investor in residential real estate, shopping malls, energy, fashion, telecommunications, and media, which attained a market value of $8 billion in 2007.[11] The value of the company plunged with the onset of the 2007–2008 global financial crisis, with company debt reportedly totalling $5.5 billion in September 2009.[11] Leviev had purchased 60% of the company in 1996 for $400 million.[11]

Leviev owns diamond mines in Russia and Africa, and is a major competitor to the De Beers international diamond cartel.

In 2005, Africa-Israel completed a $230 million 5,800-apartment project in Modi'in Illit, an ultra-Orthodox city in the West Bank. In early 2007, Africa-Israel opened a luxury jewelry store on Old Bond Street in London and was considering plans to invest billions in the Far East, Argentina, Brazil and Russia.[12] Soon thereafter the global sub-prime mortgage crisis broke, and the value of Africa-Israel's real estate investments plummeted, particularly in New York, where it had invested heavily.[13]

Angolan diamonds[edit]

As De Beers came under fire during the blood diamonds furor, Leviev increasingly came to dominate the legal Angola diamond market. Leviev says he presented Angola with a plan to reduce smuggling and increase revenue by funneling diamonds through only one source, while others claim the deal was clinched through Leviev’s connections with obscure Russian businessmen. Leviev focuses on the benefits his company brings Angola, arguing that before his involvement in 1998, Angola’s tax revenue from diamonds was under $10 million but rose to $49 million by 2001: “The government of Angola has obviously profited from this venture.” When critics query how his company benefits not just the government but the people of Angola, he answers that the Leviev Group's heavy investments in Angolan diamonds "will change the informal way of doing business into a more formalized, educated system that helps individual families... We want to help people who work with their hands. We want Angolans to develop many different new skills.”[14] New York Magazine reported in 2007 that a security company hired by Leviev had been accused by a local human rights group that year "of participating in practices of 'humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations.'[15] Leviev did not directly respond to the charges, but noted his charitable activities in Angola.[15]

Alaska Diamonds[edit]

The surge in diamond price in 2011 has caused diamond rushes in lesser known areas. It gave Leviev the chance to finally break into the US diamond market, giving birth to new towns all over Alaska. Leviev was recently quoted as saying: “This stampede for diamonds is now making one of the loneliest regions a bit noisier, and a whole lot wealthier.” In the Northwest Territories, companies are extracting the equivalent of a coffee can full of diamonds each day. The gems within that can are collectively worth $1.4 million. Leviev sees this new rush in the Alaska region as a new great addition to his already successful diamond empire. The mine which Leviev has procured has a 10 year mining license and has already been successful for the past 5 years. Some investors also claim that the takeover of this mine was due to Levievs strong government connections and an unknown Texan company.

Israeli settlements[edit]

Leviev is involved in the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Leviev’s Danya Cebus company, a subsidiary of Africa-Israel, subcontracted the construction of Mattityahu East to Shaya Boymelgreen. Danya Cebus is also building part of Har Homa and Maale Adumim.[16] In 1999, Leviev's company Danya Cebus announced plans to build new homes in the settlement of Ariel.[17] Through another subsidiary, LIDAR, Leviev appears to be the sole realtor-developer of the settlement of Zufim.[18]

Leviev's devotion to settlement construction have drawn protest from outside the Old Bond Street store in his London home, to the Leviev-owned jewelry store in New York City, and has impelled Oxfam to make it clear that Leviev has not donated to the charity.[19][20] UNICEF has also advised Leviev that they will not partner with or accept any contributions from him due to the controversy.[21] In a press release, a spokesperson for Leviev described the protests as "politically motivated" and accused protesters of "deliberately neglect[ing]... extensive humanitarian and philanthropic work, which includes building schools, orphanages, and fostering economic development in communities around the world."[citation needed] Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman condemned UNICEF's decision as "selective political discrimination" that "only gives legitimacy to those who would seek to promote a boycott of the State of Israel and its supporters."[22]

In April 2009, following public pressure for a boycott, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced that it would not be renting its Tel Aviv embassy from Leviev's Africa-Israel company.[23]

In 2013, the Norwegian finance ministry, after a review of Africa-Israel's activities, announced that Norway's oil fund was now allowed to re-invest in Africa-Israel.[24]

Philanthropy[edit]

Leviev is a major supporter of Jewish philanthropic causes and president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC), an umbrella body representing Jewish communities across the former Soviet Union. He is the founder of the Ohr Avner Foundation (named for Leviev's father). A prominent member of the Bukhari Jewish community, he serves as president of the World Congress of Bukharian Jews.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Michael Rochvarger (2007-12-27). "Lev Leviev, Israel's richest man, to leave country for London". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  2. ^ a b Forbes: the World's Billionaires - Lev Leviev March 2013
  3. ^ Forbes: The World's Billionaires Lev Leviev retrieved August 10, 2011
  4. ^ Leviev’s Africa Israel stock plummets | JTA - Jewish & Israel News
  5. ^ Cracked De Beers, Phyllis Berman Lea Goldman, September 15, 2003
  6. ^ No love lost, Yossi Mehlman, Haaretz, December 11, 2005
  7. ^ Lev Leviev, Adalah-NY
  8. ^ High Court: Israeli prisons will not be privatized - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News
  9. ^ TA market drops as Africa Israel plunges | Business News | Jerusalem Post
  10. ^ TA court approves Africa-Israel repayment agreement | Business News | Jerusalem Post
  11. ^ a b c "How an Israeli king of diamonds overplayed his hand". Marketwatch (Wall Street Journal). September 22, 2009. 
  12. ^ Africa-Israel is to Africa and Israel as Apple is to fruit Haaretz, February 3, 2007
  13. ^ Lev Leviev, then and now Haaretz, September 1, 2009
  14. ^ Robert Weldon, G.G. Lev Leviev's Angolan Connection; Professional Jeweler Magazine, February 2002
  15. ^ a b Meet the Mogul New York Magazine, May 7, 2007
  16. ^ Africa-Israel to complete building of two Heftsiba projects | Jerusalem Post
  17. ^ "$50 Million Private Investment In Ariel.". Israel Business Today. [dead link]
  18. ^ "No title". webadmin.co.il. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  19. ^ Diamond Mogul Receives Angry Valentine - Forward.com"
  20. ^ Breaking News - JTA, Jewish & Israel News
  21. ^ Trotta, Daniel (June 20, 2008). "UNICEF cuts ties to Israeli billionaire Leviev". Reuters. 
  22. ^ "ADL: UNICEF decision to reject Leviev 'selective discrimination'". Ynet. 
  23. ^ The Guardian, 28 April 2009, Boycott this Israeli settlement builder
  24. ^ Norway's oil fund can reinvest in Africa Israel Investments, Danya Cebus Reuters, OSLO, Wed Aug 21, 2013

External links[edit]