Israel's Check Point's Nacht Quietly Sold Down Stake During 2016

Sources say the sale is unrelated to firm’s prospects.

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd headquarters in Tel Aviv.
BAZ RATNER/REUTERS

Marius Nacht, the chairman of Check Point Software Technologies and one of the company’s three founders, has quietly sold off more than 40% of his stake in the company, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

It was the first time in seven years that Nacht has shares in the company with which he has been associated since he helped to establish it in 1993.

Sources close to Nacht, 55, said the move did not express doubts about the company, which pioneered computer firewalls in the early 1990s and for two decades has been one of Israel’s most successful high-tech companies.

They ascribed the sales to Nacht’s rejiggering of his personal assets and due to personal needs.

In any case, even though Nacht has reduced his stake to just 6.8%, he and Gil Shwed — the CEO and another co-founder – retain more than a 24% stake in the company, making them the single biggest bloc of shareholders.

Part of the reasons is that Check Point has bought back shares over the last years, reducing its total share count by about 17%.

The SEC filing shows that Nacht sold the shares over the course of 2016, when the price of a Check Point share on Nasdaq rose from $80 to $85. He sold a 5.2% stake, or about 10 million shares, at an average price of $81 per share.

With Check Point share sclosing on Friday at $99.45, his remaining 6.8% stake in Check Point is worth about $1.2 billion. Check Point shares, which are up 17% so far this eyar, got their latest boost last month after it reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.33, way ahead of the consensus forecast of $1.15.

Nacht was born in Romania and immigrated to Israel with his parents at the age of 3. He grew up in Ashkelon and served in the army’s elite Talpiot research and development unit while earning a degree in math and physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He went on to earn an electrical engineering degree at Tel Aviv University, and was 25 when he was hired by one of the two companies that later merged to form Orbotech.

That is where he met Shwed. In 1993 the two formed Check Point together with Shlomo Kramer, an army buddy of Shwed’s who left the company to become a serial entrepreneur. Shwed has been CEO for 24 years. Nacht served as vice president becoming chairman of the board in 2015.

In November, Reuters reported that Nacht was raising a health care-focused fund of more than $100 million.

“I’m wishing for the creation of another Teva or another Check Point in healthcare,” Nacht told the news agency. “We are not here to sell out, we are really here to try ... and create a big company, create a financial ecosystem for healthcare companies in Israel.”

Unusually, Nacht has shared his estimated $2.5 billion net worth with his ex-wife, Anat Agmon, who he divorced in 2011.

Unlike Nacht, Shwed has retained his stake in recent years, selling just $60 million in Check Point stock in the past year, according to SEC filings.