CEO of Deloitte in Israel Killed in Eilat Airplane Crash

Leading accountant Igal Brightman was a prominent supporter of Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Ben-Gurion University and Tel Aviv University.

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The man killed in Thursday's crash of a light airplane outside of Eilat was Igal Brightman, the chairman and CEO of the major local accounting firm of Deloitte Brightman Almagor Zohar. He will be buried Sunday in Tel Aviv.

On Thursday, he was en route from the Herzliya airport when, for reasons that are still not clear, his plane crashed short of the Eilat airport. Initial reports indicated that there was no distress call from the pilot prior to the accident. Brightman was 68.

Igal Brightman founded the accounting firm of Brightman & Co. in 1972. When Deloitte decided to establish a presence here in 1994, it chose to affiliate with Brightman's operations here, which now include offices throughout the country. Brightman not only headed the Deloitte affiliate here; he at one time also did an eight-year stint as a member of Deloitte’s global board.

A key member of the board of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art for many years, he chaired the museum's audit committee and headed its corporate club, through which the business community was involved in funding the museum. He was also a member of the board of governors of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and of the advisory board of Tel Aviv University’s School of Management.

In 2009, the partners of his firm amended the retirement age in their partnership agreement to enable Brightman to stay on as the firm’s head. Prior to his death, behind the scenes, Brightman's firm, which has about 70 partners and a workforce of more than 1,000, had been preparing for their CEO's retirement, which was due to take place at the end of the year. In recent years, Brightman had been grooming managing partner Ilan Birnfeld as his successor as CEO. The partners of the firm had been preparing for Brightman's retirement and said they expected that his death would not create undue trauma to the firm's daily operations.

Birnfeld, who worked at the firm with Brightman worked together for over 20 years, said: "Igal understood that assuring the prosperity and stability of the firm required the creation of a generation of partners that could move the firm forward and carry out its strategy. He was a first-class strategist, a man who understood and knew business, with a sharp ability to size matters up, sharp in his thinking and very creative in finding simple solutions to complex problems. This resulted in his being asked to sit with decision makers in the business field and in the public and government sector. When there was a problem, they knew they could call Igal and expect a solution."

Birnfeld said he was still in shock over his mentor’s death, but added that Brightman had prepared for his departure from the firm and for Birnfeld’s takeover.

‘A foundation of the profession’

David Goldberg, president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Israel, called Brightman "one of the foundations of the profession." The Bank of Israel issued a condolence message, in which acting governor Karnit Flug called Brightman one of the leaders of the Israeli financial sector and a man whose presence will be missed on the public scene.

Two weeks ago, Brightman attended a conference on the implications of the government’s current economic and tax policies, sponsored by his firm and the Manufacturers’ Association. Addressing the issue of retaining multinational companies doing business in Israel, he told the audience: “Anyone who thinks that it is possible to retain multinational companies here without giving them substantial tax benefits is mistaken.” Raising tax rates, he added, will drive away international corporations, which will locate instead in places such as Switzerland, Ireland and Luxembourg, where he claimed investment in knowledge-based industry is greater than in it is here.

Brightman was the father of three children and was married at the time of his death to his French-born second wife, Claude, an architect and designer of museum exhibitions.

Igal Brightman Credit: Eyal Toueg

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