In a major feat for the Israeli entertainment industry, two Israeli billionaires made Forbes list of the fifteen richest Hollywood powerbrokers. Well-known Israeli billionaire and entertainment mogul Haim Saban was ranked sixth on the list of Hollywood’s string-pullers, only to be topped in fourth place by the Israeli-American businessman and CEO of Marvel Entertainment, Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter. International media influencer Rupert Murdoch led the list, including other big movie business names like Sumner Redstone and the creator of the legendary Star Wars epic, George Lucas.
From power rangers to power producer
The ranking of two Israelis on the list makes it clear that a country the size of New Jersey has more influence on what you see on the big screen than you may think. With a net worth of $3.5 billion, Haim Saban, the 143rd richest man in the world, made his money as a television producer, creating the wildly popular children’s TV show “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”. An Egyptian immigrant to Israel, Saban started off as a music producer, only to move into the movie and television business. In fact, Saban composed the infamous musical theme to “Power Rangers” movie himself, under the pseudonym ‘Kussa Mahchi’. After moving to the United States, Saban and Israeli Shuki Levi composed some of the top children’s tunes on television, including the theme to “Inspector Gadget” and “MASH”, among others.
Saban’s biggest payday came when he sold Fox Family Worldwide to The Walt Disney Company for $5.3 billion. Soon, the network was renamed ABC Family, now a popular television station in the United States, a deal from which Saban reportedly profited a whopping $1.6 billion. In addition, Saban is the former owner of a controlling stake in Germany’s largest telecommunications company ProSiebenSat.1, and is the current owner of the largest Spanish-language media company, Univision Communications. He also owns an Indonesian media company, as well as the successful marketing firm, Saban Brands.
Saban has spent a large portion of his money on philanthropic causes, many to do with Israel. He established the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in 2002, a think tank that is part of the Brookings Institute, and he sponsors a training seminar on Middle East affairs.
An Israeli marvel
If you think that Saban’s Hollywood miracle story is impressive, wait until you hear Isaac Perlmutter’s. With a net worth higher than Saban’s, valued at $4 billion, Perlmutter is a lesser-known, but highly important figure behind the scenes in Hollywood. The CEO of Marvel Entertainment and the owner of Marvel Toys, Perlmutter is responsible for releasing superhero movies like “The Avengers” that the box offices go crazy over.
His own story of success is truly remarkable. Perlmutter moved to the United States after completing his military service with just $250 in his pocket. He soon began to make a living in New York by standing outside of Jewish cemeteries, asking if bereaved families would like him to lead funeral services in Hebrew for a small fee. Eventually, he got into the toy and beauty product business, making his fortune as a wholesaler of toys and other goods.
His involvement in a number of toy and special goods companies like Revco and Remington helped him build his name and in 1993, Perlmutter was appointed to Marvel Comics’ Board of Directors. When Marvel entered into financial difficulties, Perlmutter and his Israeli business partner Avi Arad fought for control of the company from Carl Icahn and Ron Perelman. By 2005, Perlmutter was already the CEO of Marvel Entertainment, and remains so today, though the company has been a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company since 2009.
Beacons for Israeli entertainment
Israelis Saban and Perlmutter are a source of national pride for their determination and success in entering the cut-throat American entertainment industry, but as exemplified in the Forbes list, their influence is far grander. It is highly possible that their can-do attitude has helped Israel’s imports to Hollywood soar into third place, with Israeli television directors, writers, producers and even actors gaining increasing international attention, and praise.