High-tech businessman Nir Barkat wins Jerusalem mayoralty

Barkat, an early investor in Check Point, won 52% of the vote.

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nir Barkat won the election for Jerusalem mayor yesterday, with 52% of the vote, beating haredi (ultra-orthodox) candidate Meir Porush. This was his second attempt; he lost to Uri Lupoliansky in the 2003 elections, after winning only 43%.

Barkat was a co-founder of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) and of BRM Capital.

It is not certain what helped Barkat win yesterday's election: the note he inserted into the Western Wall on the morning of the election; the Gur Hassidim who voted for him; the religious-national camp; or the capital's secular residents who saw him as a symbol of hope. Whatever the reason, he was able to garner 36,000 more votes than in the previous election.

This leaves the question, why does he want to be mayor of Jerusalem. He can do whatever he wants with his life. He is reportedly worth $400 million - he will be required to disclose his wealth shortly - and he has extensive philanthropic activities. However, when he realized that he lacked the power to make real change, he decided to run for office where he could make meaningful decisions.

Barkat, 49, is married to Beverly. He began his business career at a fairly young age. In 1988, he and three partners - his brother Eli, and two childhood friends, Yuval Rakavy and Omri Man - founded BRM Technologies Inc., the world's first company to develop antivirus software.

In those days, there was no such thing as Israeli high tech. There were only sporadic and unorganized enterprises. Barkat and his colleagues complemented each other, and were apparently at the right place at the right time. BRM Technologies lasted for two years, until it was acquired by Symantec Inc. (Nasdaq: SYMC), its main customer. The four founders made $500,000 on the sale.

They then met three younger students - Gil Shwed, Marius Nacht, and Shlomo Kramer - who were seeking financing for their idea to found a technology company that would develop a firewall for computers. BRM invested $400,000 in Check Point for a 50% stake in the company. The return on investment totaled tens of millions of dollars, changing the lives of Barkat and his colleagues.

In the late 1990s, Barkat founded BRM Capital, which manages money invested by his partners and other investors.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 12, 2008

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2008

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