David Brodet Elected New Leumi Chairman

Former Finance Ministry director general beats out two other candidates from the bank's board of directors.

David Brodet was elected the new chairman of Bank Leumi yesterday after a three-hour meeting of the bank's board of directors. Brodet will replace Eitan Raff, who is finishing up 15 years as chairman of Israel's largest bank.

Eitan Raff and David Brodet
Moti Kimche

Brodet's appointment will take effect once the Bank of Israel's supervisor of banks, Rony Hizkiyahu, and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz officially approve the appointment for a three-year term.

Brodet, 66, received seven out of 12 votes in the secret ballot. The bank has 15 directors, but three were candidates for chairman and did not vote. The other two candidates were Ehud Shapira and Moshe Dovrat. Three directors voted for Shapira and two for Dovrat.

The meeting opened with all three candidates presenting their vision for the bank. Brodet told the board he thought Leumi had exhausted its potential in Israel and needed to expand abroad. He said the bank should add branches in Israel, as its core business was based on retail banking.

Raff also said Leumi should expand its overseas operations, though CEO Galia Maor disagreed. She has said the present scope of Leumi's overseas business is appropriate.

Despite the seemingly close vote for Brodet - he received the minimum seven votes needed for election - he still has broad support among the board. Even his opponents in the race said they would support him once he was chosen.

Brodet served as director general of the Finance Ministry from 1995 to 1997. Brodet has a bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He started at the Finance Ministry 42 years ago, and served in a number of positions over the years before becoming head of the treasury's Budgets Division in 1991.

As director general he served as head of a commission that recommended selling the banks' holdings in non-financial firms. During his term, the ministry decided to privatize Bank Mizrahi, which was then sold to the Ofer family.

After leaving the ministry, Brodet became chairman of Mizrahi, and is still considered close to the Ofers. He served as a director of their Israel Corporation until only two weeks ago. He has served in around 20 other roles in the business sector since leaving the treasury, giving him a wide range of contacts.

He has served as the chairman of the Yes satellite broadcaster, chairman of the Blue Square supermarket chain, the head of the investment committee of the Makefet and National Workers Organization pension funds, and director of many public companies. And this is just a partial list.

He also served as the head of a committee appointed in 2007 to examine the defense budget and recommend major changes.

Among the many challenges facing Brodet is the sale of the state's remaining 11.5% stake in Leumi, which Steinitz said this week he wants to sell. This in effect would completely privatize the bank, leaving it without any controlling shareholder. In addition, Maor's future at the bank is not clear; finding a replacement for her may become Brodet's other major challenge.