Mordechai (Moti) Zisser, who was once one of Israel’s largest real estate tycoons, died of cancer on Thursday. He was 60.
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Zisser, who oversaw a multinational property empire through the Elbit Medical Imaging company, grew up in a working-class home in Bnei Brak. He taught high school before going into business.
A religious Zionist who was determined to help settle the West Bank, Zisser and some associates played an instrumental role in developing the West Bank settlement of Immanuel.
After a falling-out with the British millionaire who financed the project, Zisser left the enterprise and spent five years in South Africa as a construction project manager. He returned to Israel to become a developer, whose projects included the Herzilya Marina.
In the 1990s he expanded into Europe. Eventually he acquired Elbit Medical Imaging, a medical electronics company that he turned into his real-estate investment vehicle.
His most successful venture was building shopping malls in the formerly communist countries of eastern Europe. In 2007, he turned his sights on the Indian market.
But in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, Zisser’s businesses gradually ran into trouble. He ran up a debt of 1.4 billion shekels ($360 million) to Bank Hapoalim, which tried to force him to declare bankruptcy.
Zisser blamed the bank for his troubles, accusing it of “deciding to put an end to Moti Zisser because it simply hates him” and claiming he was treated more harshly than other indebted tycoons, such as Eliezer Fishman and Nochi Dankner.
A year ago, Zisser was forced by another creditor, Bank Leumi, to give up his luxury home in the Kfar Ganim neighborhood of Petah Tikva, which he had put up as collateral against loans. In the end, the house and land were sold to an associate for 28 million shekels, which was used to repay to Leumi a 17-million-shekel mortgage on the house.