Stef Wertheimer

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Stef Wertheimer
Stef Wertheimer.JPG
Stef Wertheimer
Born (1926-07-16) 16 July 1926 (age 87)
Kippenheim, Germany
Occupation Honorary Chairman, IMC
Net worth Increase US$ 5.3 billion (2014)[1]

Stefan "Stef" Wertheimer (Hebrew: סטף ורטהיימר‎, born 16 July 1926) is a German-born Israeli business magnate, philanthropist and former politician. He is a former Member of the Knesset, and is well known for founding industrial parks in Israel and neighboring countries[2] The Wertheimers are Israel’s richest family as of 2013.[3]

Early life[edit]

Wertheimer was born in Kippenheim, Germany. His family fled to Israel in 1937 to escape Nazism and settled in Tel Aviv.

He studied in the Tel-Nordau School but dropped out of school at age 16 and started working in a camera repair store. At the same time, he began studying optics with Professor Emanuel Goldberg, a researcher and inventor who contributed significantly to different aspects of imaging technology in the first half of the twentieth century.

In 1943, during World War II, Wertheimer joined the British Royal Air Force. Wertheimer served as an optical equipment technician. He was sent to Bahrain where he repaired optical equipment installed in Britain's military aircraft.

In 1945 he joined the Palmach, where he served as a technical officer in the German Unit – a special guerilla force trained with British cooperation to participate in combat operations against the German army, should it reach Palestine. In 1947, he joined the Haganah and worked in the development and improvement of cannons. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, he served as a technical officer in the Yiftach Brigade.

After the war, Wertheimer started working at RAFAEL, only to be dismissed shortly thereafter because of his lack of formal education.

Business ventures[edit]

In 1952, Wertheimer started in the backyard of his home in Nahariya, Israel a small metal tool cutting factory called ISCAR. The factory quickly became a success and attracted the interest of Discount Investments, who later became a minority investor in the company. Today, ISCAR is one of the world's largest (by sales) manufacturers of carbide industrial-cutting tools, which are used by carmakers like General Motors and Ford.[4] ISCAR branches exist in over 50 countries worldwide and the company employs nearly 6,000 people.

In 1969, as part of Israeli efforts to overcome the French weapons embargo after the Six-Day War, Wertheimer founded ISCAR Blades which later became Blades Technology Ltd. – one of the largest manufacturers of blades and vanes for jet engines and industrial gas turbines. Today, Blades Technology's customers include Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, Snecma, General Electric, MTU Aero Engines, Techspace Aero, Solar Turbines, and others.

In May 2006, Berkshire Hathaway, billionaire investor Warren Buffett's conglomerate holding company, bought 80% of ISCAR Metalworking Company for $5 billion (the Wertheimers paid $1 billion in taxes to the Israeli government).[5] In May 2013 Buffett bought the rest of Iscar for $2.05 billion.[6]

Industrial parks[edit]

Wertheimer founded four industrial parks in Israel, with the goal of fostering economic growth and job creation to help create stability in the region. "The idea of industrial parks in the Middle East and on the borders between Israel and its neighbors is that the parks will bring industry and provide jobs, which will keep people busy working, instead of engaging in terrorism," explains Wertheimer.[7]

Wertheimer's model park is the Tefen Industrial Park. Built in 1982, it encompasses everything from transportation to cultural and educational facilities. Tefen is one of four such parks in Israel that generate some $1 billion in combined revenue. Wertheimer is especially proud of the industrial park currently being constructed in the Arab-Israeli city of Nazareth, where Jews and Arabs will work side by side. "Coexistence in the industrial park in Arab Nazareth is a good example of coexistence. When people work together, they have no time for nonsense. They're too tired at night to commit terrorist acts. They're satisfied, they engage in producing. They work together, not against each other," elaborates Wertheimer on the success of his model.[7]

Marshall Plan for the Middle East[edit]

Wertheimer promotes the idea of a "Marshall Plan for the Middle East" – his concept for using industry to provide training, create jobs, alleviate poverty and raise the per capita income of those living in the Middle East.

In the 1990s, he drew up plans for an industrial park in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian and the Israeli governments both offered support, but one week before the groundbreaking ceremony, the Second Intifada broke out and that plan was indefinitely shelved.[8]

In 2002, he testified before the United States House of Representatives about a "new Marshall Plan" that advocates U.S. funding to revitalize the Middle East through a sustained effort to promote commerce, jobs, and a free economy in the region .[9]

Wertheimer's vision includes building an additional 100 industrial parks that will employ Israelis and Palestinians. Wertheimer isn't confining his idea to Israel though, and has plans underway in Turkey and Jordan.[7]

"My Marshall Plan is based on aid from Western countries for strengthening the Middle East, in order to achieve peace and tranquillity. The parks will serve as a five-year incubator for manufacturing and export companies. If aid is obtained, the parks can usher in an era in which production, exports, education, and an advanced quality of life can replace terrorism and poverty," elaborated Wertheimer on his vision.[7]

Palestinians, however, are more cautious. They are concerned that the trust which briefly characterised Israeli-Palestinian relations before October 2000 has been irrevocably severed.[10]

Political career[edit]

Stef Wertheimer
Year of aliyah 1937
Knessets 9
Party represented in Knesset
1977–1978 Democratic Movement for Change
1978–1981 Shinui

In 1977 Wertheimer was amongst the founding members of Democratic Movement for Change, a new centrist political party. The party was highly successful, winning 15 seats in the 1977 elections, with Wertheimer taking one of the seats. When the party split up in 1978, he joined Shinui. In 1981 following an accident,[8] he resigned from the Knesset (was replaced by Stella Levy) and returned to his business ventures. During his term in the Knesset, he was a member of the Economics Committee. According to The Economist, "Israel’s leaders, he says, have yet to make the transition to thinking that their state should serve all its citizens, including its Arab minority.:[11]

Prior to 2013 elections, he took the honorary final slot on Tzipi Livni's new list, Hatnuah.[12]

Awards[edit]

In 1991, Wertheimer was awarded the Israel Prize for his special contribution to society and the State of Israel.[13]

In 2008 he received the Buber-Rosenzweig-Medal.

Family[edit]

Wertheimer has four children, eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren (as of July 2002).[10]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]