Lapid's Friends in High Places

It's no secret that former television journalist Yair Lapid, who raced to a surprise No. 2 finish in Tuesday's Knesset elections, has friends in the media. But he also has some very close connections at the very top of Israel's business world, too.

Yair Lapid, the big surprise of election night, has friends in the media thanks to his long years in the field. But the chairman of the Yesh Atid party also has quite a few buddies at the top of the business world.

One of those chums is Dani Tokatly, a multi-millionaire who tends to shun the spotlight. Tokatly's family once owned the Israeli insurance company Arieh, which eventually merged with Klak Insurance. Tokatly himself got rich after making a particularly successful investment in the DSP Group, which creates chipsets for communications devices. Tokatly and Lapid have known each other for more than 30 years.

Michal, Lapid’s late sister, was the best friend of Tokatly’s sister. Tokatly is one of the major investors in the international investment company Brack Capital, and Lapid is a good friend of one of its founders, Shimon Weintraub. Through Tokatly, Lapid is also friends with Zvi Limon, one of Tokatly’s associates in the investment fund Magnum and the only one of its founders to remain at the new fund, Magma.

Another friend from the top of the business world is billionaire Arnon Milchan, one of the owners of Channel 10. In recent years Milchan returned to Israel after a long stint in Hollywood. The two met when Lapid interviewed Milchan in the 1990s, and Lapid even worked for a short time at Milchan’s television company in Los Angeles.

Since then the two have kept up a close friendship, which includes sing-along nights at the Genki Club in Tel Aviv. From the long years spent working at the Channel 2 concessionaire Reshet, Lapid has retained his ties with Udi Angel, one of Reshet’s shareholders and the chairman of Ofer Shipping, and with Yohanan Tsangan, formerly Reshet’s CEO.

Another friend is the veteran industrialist Dov Lautman, the former owner of Delta. Lautman, who is active alongside Lapid in Hakol Hinuch (The Movement for the Advancement of Education in Israel), acquainted Lapid with Rabbi Shai Piron three years ago. Piron is now No. 2 in Yesh Atid.

Naturally, when preparations began for the election campaign, other friends of Lapid came to light. One is the high-tech entrepreneur and CEO of AT&T Israel, Hillel Kovrinski, who met Lapid about five years ago through mutual friends. He has been close to him since. Kovrinski recruited two professionals to work for Lapid: the party’s CEO Kobi Moisa, former CEO of the ACE and Mega Sport chains, and Yoram Baumann, one of the owners of the advertisement firm Baumann Ber Rivnay, who provides the party with strategic counseling.

Lapid’s political consultant is Uri Shani, formerly the bureau chief of Ariel Sharon, CEO of real estate and infrastructures group Shikun & Binui, and manager of the business ventures of Arcadi Gaydamak. Unofficially, Lapid has a much more senior political consultant – former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was a close friend of his late father Tommy Lapid, and maintains warm ties with the family to this day.

Lapid is also close to the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth Noni Mozes, in whose paper he worked as a columnist in the Shiva Yamim supplement before entering politics. Two-and-a-half weeks ago Mozes held a sumptuous farewell party for Lapid at the Crown Plaza hotel, although Lapid had already ceased writing in the paper three months earlier. The event was criticized for its proximity to Election Day.

Moti Kimche