Published On: Thu, Jan 1st, 2015

10 Most Celebrated Jewish Business People of 2014

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Here is our list of the ten most significant Jewish business people of 2014. Some were included for making positive headlines this year. Some for negative reasons.

Yes we could have included more. Yes we could have written more about each one. But we wanted you to be able to finish reading this in time for next year’s lists.

10) Mikhail Khodorkovsky

US Urges Russian Action As Tension Mounts In Eastern Ukraine
The Russian oligarch whose father was Jewish made headlines this year more for his politics than for his business moves. Khodorkovsky continued to fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had spent ten years in jail for what was described as trunked up charges of tax evasion, fraud and money laundering but was actually pardoned by Putin himself.

In September he launched a movement of pro-European Russians to topple Putin.

Once the richest man in Russia and the former head of Yukos Oil, the 51 year old said this month that he believes that the support of the Russian people for Putin is dropping. No wonder since the Ruble has lost almost 100% of its value against Western currencies so far this year.

But he also cautioned the West against imposing too harsh sanctions against Russia since this would have the opposite of the desired effect. Such sanctions, Khodorkovsky said, would make the Russian population more extreme in its views of the West and allow Putin to become more entrenched in power.

9) Mark Cuban

Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz
This self-made billionaire certainly isn’t afraid to speak his mind. The owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks has spoken out on his investments in China’s Alibaba, talked about how great it is to be a billionaire, and proposed a world cup for the NBA.

Oh, and he also took credit for Aereo. That was in addition to being one of the many people embarrassed by the leak of Sony emails in which he was shown to be a whiny cry baby who wanted more money for appearing in the reality series Shark Tank.

Cuban also invested in a new company called Xpire which deletes texts that people wish they hadn’t made. That’s certainly something that he could use.

Back in January the NBA hit him with a $100, 000 fine for yelling at refs during a game.

8) Safra Catz

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison Addresses Oracle's OpenWorld 2010 Conference

Israeli born American business executive Safra Catz was named the new CEO of Oracle. She was elevated from her previous position as the company’s Chief Financial Oficer.

American businesswomen have been breaking the so called glass ceiling in recent years. GM and Yahoo have recently given the reigns of their companies to women. Now Oracle has joined the still very small club of American companies with women CEOs.

Catz replaced the company’s previous CEO Larry Ellison who recently stepped down from that position and has stayed on with Oracle as its chief technology officer and executive chairman. Ellison himself once predicted that she would replace him one day.

She shares the position with a new co-CEO Mark Hurd. Catz is responsible for the manufacturing, finance and legal decisions, while Hurd is in charge of sales, service and global business units.

7) Sheldon Adelson

Casino Magnate Sheldon Adelson Addresses Hospitality Students At UNLV
The casino mogul failed this year in his efforts to get the U.S. Congress to pass tough anti-online gambling legislation. Of course casino owners don’t like online gambling.

His Las Vegas Sands in Macau was granted permission from the Chinese government to construct another hotel and casino called The Parisian, for $2.5 Billion.

Iran was suspected of being behind a hacking attack into the Las Vegas Sands’ systems this year.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was spotted having dinner with his patron Adelson at a very non-kosher restaurant in Manhattan.

Finally Israel’s free daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today) which Adelson bankrolls at a loss is in danger of being put out of business. Israel’s Knesset has been considering legislation to ban the practice of offering free newspapers on the grounds that it is an unfair business practice intended to harm the already existing Israeli papers.

6) The Weinsteins


Harvey and Bob Weinstein
Things have only gotten better for the Weinstein Brothers since they sold their Miramax company to Disney. Someone at Disney should have known that Miramax was worthless without them and at least have gotten a 20 year no compete clause as part of the deal.

But they had their share of controversy this year. The Weinstein’s saw a high profile lawsuit against the studios behind the Hobbit trilogy tossed after a judge ruled that their claims were groundless. The brothers had sought another $75 million in royalties from the project which they were affiliated with back when they still owned Miramax.

They also had to go to extreme measures to protect the new script for Quentin Tarantino’s next film The Hateful Eight. This was because an original version of the screenplay was stolen and leaked which led to a rewrite.

But on the light side Academy Award winning actress Dame Judi Dench revealed that she has a tattoo of Harvey Weinstein’s name on her butt.

And Harvey Weinstein also went into the fashion business this year. He reached a deal with the estate of the late famed designer Charles James to license his fashion brand, with an option to buy. Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, 36, Weinstein’s wife, and her brother the Marchesa CEO Edward Chapman, will serve as creative consultants for the revived label.

 

5) Carl Icahn

Carl Icahn YouTube
This activist investor made a number of headlines this year.

In real estate his two came in Atlantic City. First he has been trying to save the Bankrupt Trunp Taj Mahal Casino Hotel there. After loaning it $100 million – making him a major creditor who would have to wait on line with the rest in bankruptcy court – he tried to take over the resort himself.

This entailed going to court to get a judge to negate union contracts that guaranteed its employees generous health and pension benefits. The judge sided with Icahn. The unions attacked him for it, but Icahn said that the hotel could not survive if it had to pay out all that money.

Carl Icahn’s other AC deal came when he acquired an old house there next to the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino for only $583, 000. This after Trump and others had tried to get it for years for as much as $1 million. Its location is ripe for development in conjunction with the Trump Plaza.

He also made peace this year with fellow billionaire Bill Ackman. The two had feuded for years after Ackman felt that Icahn cheated him in the sale of a company.

Icahn also stands to make a small fortune when the sale of Dollar Stores is finalized. He owns %9.4 of its stock.

 

4) George Soros

Exclusive Interview With Billionaire Investor George Soros
This year he made hundreds of millions of dollars betting against the Yen. He reduced his stake in Teva, dumped shares in many bio-the firms like Celgene and Ariad Pharmaceuticals and cut his stake in YPF SA, an Argentinian oil company.

Soros also harshly criticized Vladimir Putin, calling the Russian leader a bigger threat than ISIS and called on the EU to help Ukraine fight Russia.

Oh and he also gave $4 million to help treat people with Ebola.

There was certainly a whole lot more but we could not include everything here.

 

3) Bill Ackman

Herbalife Plunges As Ackman Vows To Unveil Enron-Like Fraud
The billionaire investor has made a great deal of headlines over the years. But this year Ackman was known best for his involvement with diet drink company Herbalife and the pharmaceutical company Allergan.

Ackman made a $1 billion bet against Herbalife short selling the company which he says is nothing more than a huge pyramid scheme. But he embarrassed himself when giving a video conference where he promised to reveal dirt on the company. His revelations came up flat and Herbalife stock actually went up.

But then Herbalife was forced to settle a lawsuit filed against it for being a pyramid scheme and its stock fell again. Ackman predicted that his bet would pay off in 2015.

At the same time this was happening his Pershing Square Capital teamed with Valiant in a hostile takeover bid of Allergan. After the later accused him of improprieties, a judge ruled in Ackman’s favor.

In the end the activist investor dropped his bid and agreed to support a $66 billion offer for the company which was made by Actavis. In selling his Allergan stock Ackman walked away with a cool $2.3 billion in profit.

 

2) Dov Charney

Dov Charney,   chairman and chief executive officer of American Apparel.

Where to begin? If you follow either business or fashion at all then you already know the whole story. The founder and former CEO of American Apparel lost his company this year after a series of sexual harassment and abuse allegations.

First he was forced out by the board of directors. Then he teamed with a private investment firm to get back control of the company. Then the takeover succeeded and he made his comeback. But then he was ousted again.

Now Charney says that he is broke and is forced to sleep on a friend’s sofa. This after once being worth more than $200 million. Charney blames the firm that loaned him the money for his takeover bid of American Apparel over the summer for his financial woes. He says that it gave him a bum deal.

 

1) Donald Sterling

LA Clippers

His shenanigans this past year certainly qualified for both the most entertaining as well as the most embarrassing stories relating to Jewish business people for the past year. This is why he really had to come in at number one.

Jews everywhere were ashamed when it was confirmed to them that Sterling is in fact a Jew after news of his unbelievable racist streak came out.

But as Jews we also could not help but laugh at him too.

So what if he lost his NBA team just because the real estate mogul is a shameless racist? His family made $2 billion on the sale of a business that cost them less than 2% of that amount 30 years ago.

Yet that was not good enough for Donald Sterling. He went to court in an attempt to block the sale which came after he was banned for life from the NBA due to his racist rants which included attacks on basketball legend Magic Johnson. But the judge did not buy his arguments and the sale went through.

Sterling continued to embarrass himself by threatening to sue the NBA and by making shockingly stupid and at times incoherent statements in an interview with Larry King.

Many assumed that the octogenarian was suffering from some form of dementia.

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