Recanati Wants More State Money to Go to Science Education

Leon Recanati is worried about the level of education in Israel, so worried that he has broken his self-imposed media silence since his sale of IDB Holding Corp. about four years ago. In an interview with TheMarker, Recanati calls on the government to treat education more seriously.

"The budget must take into consideration the investments in secondary and higher education so that we can continue to maintain our relative advantage," Recanati says. "The budget is a major tool for implementing policy, and the education [system] requires more serious treatment and guidance.

"If we intend to be part of the global community, if we want to create a modern society with social and democratic values, we have to invest in learning and entrepreneurship so that Israel will raise a generation that can maintain the advantages that the state is promoting."

Recanati yesterday received an award from the president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel for volunteer work as an industrialist and his contribution to education. Recanati has been devoting much of his time to this field for years, both through the association and independently.

Among his major investments in education are assisting students in outlying communities to help them win matriculation certificates. He has also provided funding to Think Industry, a program designed to increase students' knowledge of and interest in industry through hands-on projects that follow the life of a product from the idea stage to the store shelf.

After years of promoting this program in Tel Aviv, Recanati is funding a similar scheme in Haifa as part of the National Museum of Science, Technology and Space. The museum was also visited yesterday by the first person to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, now 77. The students who met him were not even born in 1969 when he took his one small step for man.

After selling IDB, Recanati founded GlenRock Israel, a private investment fund. To this day Recanati has declined to disclose any details of the fund's equity or the scope of his investments, although sources estimate GlenRock's investments at $100 million.

"The fund invests in technology companies such as Quigo Technologies, MobilEye and Microheat," Recanati says, "and in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies such as Kamada, Rosetta Genomics, Evogene and Roei Medical Technologies, and medical devices companies such as Beta-O2, in conjunction with entrepreneur Yossi Gross."

When asked about anticipated developments in his portfolio companies, Recanati would say only that "Kamada is making very impressive progress."

He also has investments in Mivtach Shamir, a diversified investment company, "and a partnership with Clal Industries in the Infinity Israel-China Fund, which operates in China and invests in Chinese companies that use Israeli technology."

Infinity has raised some $150 million of a planned financing campaign of $250 million to $300 million. Clal is a subsidiary of IDB, and Recanati served as its chairman until he sold IDB.

While at Clal, Recanati founded Clal Biotechnologies in 1998 with David Haselkorn. Then, as now, he has very strong faith in biotechnology companies, and a substantial portion of his investments are in this field, which he is currently trying to promote with the government.

"Biotechnology could be turned into a growth engine just as electronics was in previous decades," Recanati says. "I have drafted a proposal with Eli Opper, the chief scientist at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, recommending that the government invest $300 to $500 million in this field so that it can realize its potential."

Recanati's future business plans include the establishment of two new investment funds with overseas partners, including Gary Leibler of Australia and an American investor. The funds will manage tens of millions of dollars and focus on high tech.

As for non-high-tech investments, Recanati says that he "always has plans," but high tech is more interesting and has greater added value. He has discussed additional investments with Meir Shamir, his partner in Mivtach Shamir, but no checks have been written.

Recanati notes that contrary to media reports, when Shamir was considering an investment in Israel Salt Industries, which has a substantial stake in Bank Hapoalim, Recanati had no intentions to join that venture.