Ehud Barak: From kibbutz to "Forbes" list

A former IDF chief of staff and prime minister, the Defense Minister, set to retire, made most of his fortune as a private citizen in 2001-07.

It was once said that Ehud Barak loved to dismantle watches, but his real hobby is apparently to amass a large watch collection, provided that the watches are pricey and shiny and can be appreciated along with a fine cigar. The man, who spent most of his life in the IDF, became one of Israel's wealthiest politicians some time ago, with a fortune estimated by "Forbes Israel" at NIS 56 million.

The apartment he liked to reside in covered half of the 40th floor of one of the three Akirov Towers in north Tel Aviv. He paid a bargain price of NIS 14.5 million for it, and sold it last year to Teddy Sagi for NIS 26.5 million, merely to move to another high-rise in Tel Aviv's Assuta Village project. Barak's next apartment will be modest, costing a mere NIS 8 million, and having just 200 square meters, half the size of his dream home sold to Sagi. Until the Assuta Village project is completed, Barak is renting an apartment in Tel Aviv's G Tower, paying NIS 25,000 a month.

Barak, a scion of Kibbutz Mishmar Hashiva, a former IDF chief of staff and Israeli prime minister, made most of his fortune, as he and his aides used to tell the media, in 2001-07, through hard work and skill when he was a private citizen. Even when his opulent lifestyle put him at the center of the public discourse, he saw no reason to apologize for his conduct.

When asked by Hebrew daily "Haaretz" if he was a rich man, he replied, "What's a millionaire? In shekels, certainly. In dollars too. I'm no tycoon, but is my property worth a few million dollars? Obviously it is. This apartment alone is, and I'm not ashamed of it. I wasn’t a public figure for five or six years."

During those years, Barak was a highly sought after speaker around the world, earning $30,000 per lecture. He founded a consultancy firm, Ehud Barak Ltd., which offered security consulting services for leading multinational financial, private equity, and venture capital firms. According to a survey published by "Forbes Israel" in September 2012, Barak was a partner in US private equity firm SCP Partners, where he was involved in investments in Swiss hedge fund CMA and Star Ventures. He also served as president of Gilat Satcom Ltd. and was a director at investment house Tamir Fishman & Co.. All this reportedly fattened his bank account by NIS 30 million.

Does a resume that includes being an Israeli prime minister and IDF chief of staff open so many doors around the world? Asked about this in the past, Barak said that Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Gerhard Schroeder, all men of the Left, went into private life and grew wealthy within a few years.

"What doors were opened?" asked Barak. "I gave lectures, but I was also a consultant for global financial companies and large private equity and venture capital funds in the reality of the 2000s, when the world changed, with all the complications of the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War. The heads of these companies did not feel that they understood enough about the world. These firms, which manage tens of billions of dollars, spend $200 million a year on consultancies and research, but they lack someone who understands this. I understand economic systems, I really learned at the best university in the world. Everything I did, I did honestly, aboveboard, without tricks and without shticks. I am ashamed of nothing, I won't lower my eyes to anyone, no one will lecture me or preach to me."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on November 26, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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