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|Jacob "Kobi" Alexander|
May 4, 1952 |
Kfar Saba, Israel
Jacob "Kobi" Alexander (born May 4, 1952) is an Israeli-American businessman. He is the founder and the former CEO of New York-based Comverse Technology. In 2006, he was charged with multiple counts of fraud and related offenses pertaining to irregularities in trading of Comverse stock; he subsequently fled to Namibia, a nation which has no extradition treaty with the US.
Alexander founded Comverse Technology (NASDAQ: CMVT) in 1982 and built it up from a 3-person Israeli startup to employing over 5,000, becoming the leading provider of software and systems for telecommunication companies worldwide. Comverse’s success led to its inclusion in the NASDAQ 100 and S&P 500 indices.
Alexander was born on May 4, 1952, into a middle-class family in Kfar Saba, Israel. His mother was a school teacher, and his father an officer in the signal corps of the Israeli Defense Forces, and later, the Managing Director of the Israeli National Oil Company.
Following military service, Alexander enrolled in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, receiving a BA in Economics Magna Cum Laude in 1977. In 1978 he traveled to the United States earning an MBA at New York University.
In his early years in New York, he met an electrical engineer and together with his brother in law, a professor of Computer Science at Columbia University, the three conceived voice mail technology and developed the idea of what was to become Comverse Technology. The founders understood already then that communications will be a big market, and pioneered the voice mail systems that today are used by telecoms worldwide to support telephony services.
In 1981, fresh with his NYU MBA, Alexander returned to Israel to bootstrap Comverse. In 1986, after struggling for over 4 years with the company reaching the brink of bankruptcy, the two other founders left their operational roles, and subsequently left the company.
Upon taking the helm, Alexander made three key strategic decisions:
- Selling strictly to telecoms, who in turn represented hundreds of thousands of end user licenses for Comverse systems, and who enabled Comverse to piggyback on their growth.
- Focusing on markets outside the U.S. where competition was weaker, enabling Comverse to establish leadership in certain regions early on.
- Raising financing when market conditions were favorable.
Within a short amount of time, Comverse was back on its feet. A major breakthrough came when Alexander convinced Swiss telecom giant Ascom to invest US$6 million in the company in the mid eighties, providing Comverse the capital it needed to realize its dream. In 1986, Alexander was able to take Comverse public on the NASDAQ.
In 1997, Comverse bought its main competitor for US$700 million, at the time the largest acquisition to date for an Israeli based company. Comverse Technology, Inc., which owns 100% of Comverse, also owns majority equity in several other companies, including Verint and Ulticom. It has over US$1.5 billion in sales to over 450 telecoms in 120 countries supporting more than 450 million subscribers worldwide. As of March 2006, the company employed approximately 6000 people in over 50 countries, had a market capitalization of approximately US$6 billion, and over US$2.2 billion in cash.
Alexander is also an avid sports fan. He formerly owned 25% of the Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C..
Awards and accomplishments
For his achievements over the last 25 years, Alexander received the global business community’s highest awards and accolades. He came 12th in Chief Executive Magazine’s: “Market Value Added Ranking” of the CEOs of the 1000 largest US corporations, ranking those that “created the most wealth for shareholders”. The successes of Kobi and Comverse were recognized by the world’s leading publications including Barron’s, Bloomberg, Business Week, Financial World, Forbes, Fortune, International Business, and Wall Street Journal. Kobi was awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” by both Ernst & Young and Deloitte & Touche.
The Wall Street Transcript, naming Kobi Alexander as the Gold Award Winner in the Computer Telephony industry said: “... an exceptional management team have yielded consistently outstanding revenues, earnings, and shareholder value. Alexander has set some very high standards for this company and this industry.”
In addition to Comverse Technology, Alexander spun off and took public several other companies including Ulticom (NASDAQ: ULCM) and Verint Systems (NASDAQ: VRNT). Companies under his leadership were listed in Barron’s 500, Business Week: “Hot Growth Companies”, “Business Week 50”, Business Week: “The Information Technology 100”, Financial World: “America’s Best 100 Growth Companies”, Fortune: “100 Fastest Growing Companies”', International Business: “100 Fastest-Growing International Companies”, Wall Street Journal: “10-Year Best Performers”, and Wall Street Journal “Honor Roll”, among others. In 2006, Comverse was named one of Institutional Investor: America's Most Shareholder-Friendly Companies". "As CEO of Comverse, Alexander was sought out by the likes of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who slipped away from official meetings in 2000 and steered his motorcade through a pot-holed section of Tel Aviv to meet with him." He served as the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of CTI from 1987 to May 1, 2006, when he resigned during an investigation being conducted by a Special Committee of CTI's Board of Directors into the timing of CTI's stock option grants. He was Chairman of several CTI subsidiaries, including Verint Systems and Ulticom.
On July 31, 2006, Alexander was charged by United States Department of Justice authorities with multiple charges of conspiracy to commit various types of fraud (including securities fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud), as well as with related offences, all relating to the timing of Comverse's stock option grants.
After Alexander left the United States on June 21, 2006 on a pre-planned annual vacation in Israel, his lawyers arranged with American authorities that he would return to face indictment on July 30, 2006; however, he instead traveled to Germany. On July 31 he was added to the FBI's Most Wanted List.
On August 9, 2006 the United States Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Alexander, along with alleged co-conspirators William F. Sorin, Comverse’s former Senior General Counsel, and David Kreinberg, Comverse’s former Chief Financial Officer. The complaint makes nine claims of violation of the Securities Act and the Exchange Act, including fraud (First and Second Claims), and falsification of books, records or accounts (Fourth Claim). Through this action, the Commission is seeking permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, civil damages, and a prohibition against any of the defendants becoming officers of a securities-issuing entity under SEC jurisdiction.
Alexander transferred over 40 million dollars from his personal U.S. bank account to his personal bank account in Israel. He was arrested by Interpol in Windhoek, Namibia on September 27, 2006. He was released on bail on October 3, 2006. According to a Reuters report of April 23, 2007, the Namibian government described Alexander as “very passionate" about the country and its people; Alexander has promised to boost academic interest in science and technology in Namibia by establishing an annual scholarship for primary and secondary level students. He has also begun to introduce advanced technology to the country with his development of a low budget solar powered housing project for 100 low-income Namibian families.
Despite fighting extradition to the United States, Alexander announced on January 28, 2008 that he has filed suit against Comverse. Alexander claims the firm owes him $72 million in severance, unexercised stock options, and bonus pay.
On July 3, 2008 a Namibian court split decisions for and against Alexander granting his request to remove the judge currently assigned to preside at his extradition hearing while declining to assign a magistrate of his choosing. Additionally, the Namibian High Court did not, at Alexander’s attorneys’ request, rule unconstitutional the Extradition Act which would allow Alexander to be imprisoned at some point during the upcoming extradition hearing. As reported by Bloomberg.com on November 19, 2008 a hearing to request Alexander’s extradition to the United States was postponed until March 4, 2009 pending Alexander’s appeal to Namibia’s Supreme Court regarding which judge should hear the case. This appeal, not yet scheduled, will likely be adjudicated in March or April 2009. The final outcome of the extradition proceedings can be several years away pending the appeals process. Despite impending extradition proceedings, Alexander has invested heavily within the country.
In 2011, Kobi Alexander settled the civil charges with the SEC and gave up bank accounts worth $46 million to federal authorities.
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This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "http://www.sec.gov/litigation/complaints/2006/comp19796.pdf".
- Forelle, Charles; Bandler, James (March 18, 2006). "The Perfect Payday: Some CEOs reap millions by landing stock options when they are most valuable. Luck—or something else?". Wall Street Journal.