Secretive Israeli Billionaire Invested In Tech Before It Was Cool

Forbes reports on secretive Israeli billionaire, Shaul Shani, who is so media-shy that Forbes couldn’t even obtain a photo of him.

In 1985, on the scenic beaches of Herzliya Pituah, at the heart of what would become Israel‘s tech economy, Shaul Shani teamed up with Oded Pollig to form Oshap Technologies — a name that is a loose acronym for “Oded, Shaul and Partners.” The company, which created software for industrial automation, turned its first profit four years later in 1989 — when it churned out revenues of $35 million.


Since that time, Shani has managed to scale his fortune through founding, investing in and selling technology companies. Some, like Sapiens and DSP Group, still trade on the Nasdaq (though worth considerably less than their sky-high 2000 values). Others, like Technomatix and Precise Software, are things of the past.


Shani hit it big in 2009 when a company he founded in 1998, Brazillian outfit Global Village Telecom S.A., sold to France’s Vivendi S.A. The Vivendi deal bought up 37.9% of GVT outright, and granted the French company irrevocable options to buy another 19.6% of the telecoms outfit. Standing to gain from the sale: Swarth Investments LLC, Swarth Investments Holdings LLC and Global Village Telecom Holland BV; all affiliates of secretive private equity company Swarth Group. Swarth was reported to have made roughly $1.25 billion from the sale. Shani was reported to be the owner of Swarth.


Forbes didn’t confirm Shani as a billionaire until now because tracking him down turned out to be nearly impossible, as did proving he was the sole owner of Swarth Group.


For one, Israel-based Swarth Group has no web presence. Phone numbers supposedly associated with the company, found in database research, were actually associated with Petah Tikvah-based ECI Telecom, now Swarth Group’s largest holding. Shani’s name was not in ECI’s operator database (although many operators repeatedly tried to connect me with a Shaul Shakti). No operators had heard of Swarth.


More than a year’s worth of snooping paid off in late January, when a source familiar with the company contacted Forbes and confirmed that Shaul Shani is indeed the sole owner of Swarth Group, meaning that he is the sole beneficiary of the company’s sale of The Global Village Telecom stock and the sole owner of Swarth’s 44% stake in ECI.


In addition to telecoms, software and cyber security investing, the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Swarth engages in mezzanine lending, capital markets and algorithmic trading. Shani, now in his late fifties, according to information obtained in old SEC filings,  is also a partner in Magnum Technologies, which owns venture capital outfit Magma Venture Partners, which has had two major sales in recent years: Provigent Inc. toBroadcom Inc. for $313 million in 2011; and semiconductor company Wintegra to PMC Sierra Inc. for $300 million in 2010.


Based on these findings, Forbes estimates Shani is worth at least $1.3 billion, although the source suggests that discreetly-held assets from sales of previous ventures could put Shani closer to $2.5 billion.


Forbes could not attain the rights to the scant few photos in existence of Shani. But he looks like this.


Shani, of course, could not be reached for comment.

Forbes: Secretive Israeli Billionaire Invested In Tech Before It Was Cool

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