Benny Shabtai

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Benny Shabtai
Born
NationalityIsraeli
Occupationbusinessman
Known forfounder of Raymond Weil USA
Spouse(s)Lori Weitz (divorced)
Stacey Cooper

Benny Shabtai (Hebrew: בני שבתאי‎) is an Israeli-born, American businessman. He was the president and founder of Raymond Weil USA until 2009 when he sold his company.[1] In 2014, Shabtai and his family sold their controlling share in Viber, the Israeli instant-messaging, voice and video calling app.[2]

Early life[edit]

Benny Shabtai was born in Tel Aviv and raised on a kibbutz. He has two siblings. He served for three years in the Israeli army, after which he worked as a bodyguard for the Israeli ambassador in Paris, France, where his father was stationed as an envoy. After two years in Paris, he traveled to South Africa, where he worked as a croupier at a casino in Swaziland. He returned to Israel to rejoin the army, serving during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.[3]

Business career[edit]

After completing his reserve duty, Shabtai relocated to the U.S. He began working at the now defunct Eastman Watch Company, an importer of inexpensive watches from Hong Kong. At the industry's International Watch and Jewellery Fair in Basel, Switzerland, he met Raymond Weil, the eponymous head of the Swiss luxury watchmaker and she agreed to sell him four hundred Raymond Weil Watches, which he then sold to two clients in the U.S.[3] As owner and president of Raymond Weil USA, Shabtai was the exclusive distributor in the U.S. until 2009 when he sold the company.[3][4]

In February 2014, the $900 million sale of Viber, an Israeli instant messaging, voice and video calling app, to Japanese company Rakuten earned the Shabtai family (Benny, his brother Gilad, and Gilad's son Ofer) some $500 million from their 55.2% stake.[3][5]

Activism[edit]

Shabtai is a board member[not in citation given] of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), an American organization that supports Israeli soldiers.[6] From 1996 to 2012, he chaired[citation needed] the FIDF National New York Gala Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria New York, at which, in 2011, $23 million were raised.,[7] while $26 million were raised the following year.[8]

Shabtai calls his involvement with FIDF in "educating" the American people on "the sacrifices of young Israeli soldiers and the dangers they experience" as his "greatest success," adding, "It's the best thing I've done in my life. The issue is very close to me."[9]

In 2014, the Shabtai Jewish Global Membership Society at Yale University, established through Benny Shabtai's donation, purchased a New Haven, Connecticut mansion for $1.5 million, according to city records, as its new residence.[10][11]

Personal life[edit]

Shabtai is divorced from Lori Weitz[12] with whom they had three children. In 2015, Shabtai married Stacey Cooper.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Transforming Israel into an ivory tower brand" by James Kirchick, Haaretz, 24 March 2015
  2. ^ "U.S. based Shabtai family to early 496 million from Viber sale" by Joshua Levitt, Algemeiner Journal, 17 February 2014
  3. ^ a b c d "כוכב שבתאי: כך בנה איש העסקים בני שבתאי את הונו העצום - כל הדרך מעבודה בקזינו בסווזילנד" [The Star of Shabtai: This is How the Businessman Benny Shabtai Has Amassed His Huge Fortune - All The Way from Working in a Casino in Swaziland]. Forbes (in Hebrew). 6 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Cindy Sells". Forbes. 12 March 2004.
  5. ^ "Shabtai family rakes in $500m from Viber sale". Globes. 16 February 2014. Archived from the original on 30 December 2014.
  6. ^ "National Board Members". FIDF.
  7. ^ "Almost $23.5 Million Raised at National NY Gala Dinner!". FIDF. 22 March 2011. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2014-12-30.
  8. ^ "FIDF raises $26 Million at National NY Gala Dinner". FIDF. 14 March 2012.
  9. ^ "שלושים שנות תמיכה" [Thirty Years of Support]. YNet (in Hebrew). 20 March 2011.
  10. ^ "Shabtai holds Seder in new home, former convent", New Haven Register, 10 April 2017
  11. ^ "1882 Mansion Gets New Lease On Life". New Haven Independent. 1 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Benny Shabtai’s Wife Gets Lonely $24.5m Townhouse for $10m" by Laura Kusisto, Commercial Observer, 15 December 2010
  13. ^ "Benny Shabtai Ties the Knot in the Bahamas at Lavish 3-Day Wedding" by Ariella Haviv, Jewish Voice, New York, 15 April 2015