Billionaire Shaul Eisenberg dies at 76AP , Associated Press
Mar. 27, 1997 7:52 PM ET
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Billionaire Shaul Eisenberg, a refugee from Nazi Germany who built up a global business empire, died of a heart attack Thursday during a trip to Beijing, his family said. He was 76.
Eisenberg was head of the Israel Corp., a huge holding company with interests throughout Israel, Europe, central Asia and elsewhere. He also had controlling interests in the Israel Chemicals conglomerate and in Zim Navigation, Israel's biggest shipping company.
``Shaul Eisenberg was a most unusual figure in the international business world,'' said former Finance Minister Avraham Shohat. ``For decades he was active in places where Western businessmen never went,'' Shohat told Israel army radio.
At one point in the 1980s, Eisenberg owned 20 companies that did business in 30 countries. Though he had some of the trappings of the wealthy, including a plane and a lavish home, and was sought out by the powerful and influential, he was not a publicity seeker. In fact, he rarely submitted to interviews.
He also gave generously to charities. In a gesture of gratitude, the Israeli government named the Galilee village of Kfar Shaul after him.
Eisenberg, who pioneered Israel's trade relations with China, was to have returned to Tel Aviv next week to host a meeting with the Chinese minister of transport and other senior Chinese officials.
Eisenberg reportedly was born in Munich. In 1939 he fled Nazi persecution of the Jews for Shanghai and later Japan. He married the daughter of a Japanese artist and opened a diamond factory in Japan. He is credited with recognizing early on that Japan had a need for iron ore, and finding a way to import it from South America.
As he began to amass riches, Eisenberg decided to move his family back to Israel so they could be closer to their roots.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called Eisenberg one of Israel's dearest citizens, and one of its leading industrialists, saying he contributed a great deal to the country's economy and to its international ties, the radio said.
Eisenberg's son, Irwin Eisenberg, flew to China Thursday evening to bring the body home, a family spokesman said on condition of anonymity. The spokesman said the funeral would be held in Israel early next week.