Eitan Wertheimer, One of the Richest Businessmen in Israel, Dies at 70

Wertheimer was considered a mainstay of the Israeli corporate scene and credited with selling his family-controlled business, Iscar, in one of the largest buyouts in the history of Israeli industry

Shuki Sadeh
Shuki Sadeh
Eitan Wertheimer.
Eitan Wertheimer.Credit: Moti Kimche
Shuki Sadeh
Shuki Sadeh

Leading Israeli businessman and billionaire Eitan Wertheimer died on Monday after battling cancer. He was 70.

Wertheimer had been considered a mainstay of the Israeli corporate scene and was credited with selling his family-controlled business, Iscar, in one of the largest buyouts in the history of Israeli industry.

Wertheimer’s tenure as Iscar’s CEO laid the foundations for the company’s transformation into a global precision-cutting tool firm which was later sold to Berkshire Hathaway, the American holding company of billionaire Warren Buffett.

In 2006, Wertheimer sent Buffett an email offering to sell him Iscar and verified through a contact person that the email had arrived.

Buffett responded and following just weeks of negotiations agreed to buy a controlling 80 percent stake in Iscar for $4 billion.

Wertheimer stayed on as company chairman. Seven years later, Buffett exercised his option to buy the rest of the company and paid the Wertheimer family another $2 billion.

In 2014, Eitan Wertheimer was responsible for the sale of another family business, Iscar Blades Technology, to the American jet engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney, for hundreds of millions of dollars. The transactions turned the Wertheimer family, whose wealth is currently estimated at $7 billion, into one of Israel’s wealthiest.

Wertheimer is survived by his wife, the artist Ariela Wertheimer, and five children. One of his children, actress Maya Wertheimer, is married to Asaf Zamir, Israel’s current consul general in New York.

Born in 1951, Wertheimer was raised in the Israeli seaside town of Nahariya, on the Lebanese border. His father, Stef, an industrialist, had established a small workshop – Iscar – in Nahariya. After finishing his own military service in the mid-1970s at the age of 24, Wertheimer began working on an assembly line at Iscar in a junior position. He didn’t last long and went to the United States for nine months, returning in 1977.

That same year, his father was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Democratic Movement for Change, a short-living centrist party that was also known by the Hebrew acronym Dash.

Eitan Wertheimer then decided to strike out on his own as an entrepreneur. He purchased failed industrial businesses in the north, revived them and sold them at a profit.

In 1982, at the request of his father, who had quit politics after one of Iscar’s two plants ran into difficulties, Wertheimer returned to family business – initially intending to stay for just a year. But after his father was involved in a serious traffic accident, he agreed to extend his stint with the company by several months. Stef Wertheimer recovered from his injuries but convinced his son to stay on.

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