Crisis Costs Israel 2,300 Millionaires

Israeli millionaires lost $8.4 billion of their aggregate fortunes in 2008. The serial debacles on the world markets depressed their combined net worth to a mere $30.1 billion, according to the World Wealth Report released yesterday by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini.

Israeli millionaires and billionaires - or high net worth individuals, as the World Wealth report calls them - saw their wealth fall by 19.5% in 2008, versus 2007.

In 2008 the number of Israeli millionaires decreased by 2,300 individuals, down to 5,900 from 8,200 in 2007.

The definition of high net worth individual, according to investment bank Merrill Lynch and consulting firm Capgemini, is someone with at least $1 million in liquid assets, not including their home. Ultra-high net worth individuals have at least $30 million in such assets.

The number of the ultra-highs fell by almost 25% last year to only 73, and their total wealth shrunk by $2.73 billion to $10.1 billion.

The global economic crisis hit Israel's rich harder than those in other parts of the world last year.

In Israel 28% of the rich left the list last year, while less than 15% of those around the world dropped off - leaving only 8.6 million high wealth individuals globally.

Their total wealth fell from $40.1 trillion to $32.8 trillion at the end of 2008, Merrill Lynch and Capgemini reported.

The number of rich, and their wealth, fell below 2005 levels, wiping out all the gains of 2006 and 2007.

Sigal Shapira, the head of Global Wealth Management for Merrill Lynch in Israel, said the drop in the number of Israeli millionaires resulted from shocks in financial markets along with serious losses in real investments, such as income-producing properties.

The global market crash wiped out years of gains for the well-off, said Shapira. The ultra-rich made up only 0.9% of the total numbers, but their wealth was $11.4 trillion, 34.7% of the total.

The financial crisis also changed the way the rich invested: They put more of their funds into safer, simpler channels such as cash and other liquid assets. Real estate was also a favorite in 2008.

What didn't fall was the lifestyle and spending of the rich - in fact it even increased 12%.

However, they did spend their money in less extravagant ways and on goods that they felt would keep their value, such as fine art and jewelry - as well as planes, yachts and luxury cars.