Thursday, October 12, 2006

Happy New Year to top billionaires

From YNet News

Happy New Year to top billionaires

Four richest Americans are Israel-lovers or Jewish
By Sever Plocker

Two Israel-lovers and two Jews are the richest people in America, according to Forbes magazine. The top spot is traditionally occupied by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, 50, whose personal wealth is estimated at more than USD 53 billion.

Gates visited Israel about a year ago and lavished many words of love and praise on the country. The total Microsoft investment in Israel thus far is estimated at more than one billion dollars.

In second place we can find Warren Buffet, 76, the man who acquired Galilee-based Iscar for USD four billion and who said, during a rare and emotional visit to Israel, that he had never seen such a wonderful country. According to Forbes, Buffet is "worth" about USD 46 billion.

Sheldon Adelson, a 73-year-old Jew who changed the face of the casino industry in America and abroad and is married to an Israeli doctor named Miri, leaped to third place. Adelson visits Israel often and contributes large sums of money to hospitals, universities, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. His fortune is estimated at roughly USD 20.5 billion. Last year he was ranked 14th.

Adelson began to shine as a billionaire after he opened with huge success the Venetian convention, entertainment, and casino venue in Las Vegas. In 2004 he issued his holdings company and since then its stocks skyrocketed by 153 percent.

He builds and develops hotel, convention, and entertainment strips in the island of Macau, a former Portuguese colony and today a special Chinese zone (at a total investment of USD 6.5 billion.) Recently he was awarded the first casino and entertainment project in Singapore's history, a country that up until now banned gambling.

Adelson gave me a long, exclusive interview in Yedioth Ahronoth where he recounted the story of his life, revealed his social and political views, and offered to invest a billion dollars in an Eilat Casino strip, pledging that all revenues from the investment would constitute a contribution to Israel. He is also the major stakeholder of "Israeli", a free daily newspaper handed out at public transportation venues.

The top-four list is rounded out by Larry Ellison, 62, the founder of software giant Oracle and a son of Jewish immigrants from Poland.

Ellison adopted his new last name based on Ellis Island at the entrance to the New York port, where millions of immigrants from Europe used as their entry point to America, including his parents. He's an extrovert, quite arrogant, a programming genius, and a huge fan of yachting and sailing competitions.

Up until now he showed little interest in Israel, even though he has family here, but his acquaintances in California say that recently he has become closer to Judaism and Israel affairs. We will likely see him visiting here. Meanwhile, Oracle has a successful development and marketing center in Israel.

All four hold a combined fortune of USD 140 billion – equal to Israel's domestic production in 2007. Gates and Buffet established a joint fund for social contributions and have been transferring most of their assets to it gradually. This fund will have USD 60 billion available to it in the future.

Community activism and "Tikkun Olam" is the new joy of the super-wealthy. At the outset of the new Jewish Year, it's nice to know they are so close to us, ideologically, spiritually, and nationally. We wish them a Happy New Jewish Year.

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