WEDNESDAY, 15 APRIL 2015 07:17 BY ARIELLA HAVIV
Multi-millionaire Israeli businessman Benny Shabtai exchanged wedding vows recently with new bride Stacey Cooper; the 2001 winner of the Mrs. Globe beauty pageant.
The bevy of high profile guests were still buzzing about the exquisite nature of the nuptials including the breathtaking fireworks display, the ceremony on the beach and the musical performances of the iconic rock group Chicago and the contemporary Gipsy Kings.
Hoisting a glass to toast the couple were a veritable cornucopia of celebs including Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, Denise Rich, Jacob (the Jeweler) Arabo, Tao’s Mark Packer, former OJ Simpson defense attorney Robert Shapiro, Hotel Hugo’s Morris Moinian and Seth Greenberg, who just opened a Serafina restaurant in Boston.
The genesis of Shabtai’s initial fortune emanated from the jewelry business. Serving as the founder of the Raymond Weil luxury watchmaker’s brand in the United States, Shabtai’s family currently owns the Di Modolo jewelry company. Since his humble beginnings peddling watches on the streets of New York City, Shabtai has also diversified his business interests through his embrace of the technological revolution.
Last year, he earned approximately half a billion dollars for himself, his brother and his nephew when he sold off his family’s percentage in the free smartphone messaging app Viber. The brainchild of four Israeli entrepreneurs and claiming over 300 million users, Viber is considered high up on the list of tech startups in recent years and the chat among techie insiders is that it has directly challenged the more entrenched Skype.
Indebted to America for the multitude of opportunities afforded him to succeed in his business endeavors, Shabtai also remembers his roots in Israel. Born in Tel Aviv and having proudly served with the Israel Defense Forces in the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War, Shabtai has made concerted efforts to give back to both countries in significant ways.
Having been asked by a general in the IDF nearly two decades ago to take over the then fledging American fundraising arm of Israel’s military, Shabtai immediately agreed. He used his business acumen to transform the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) from a relatively small charity that barely attracted a few hundred people to their gala dinner at New York’s Waldorf Astoria to the impressive numbers of well over 1000. He is now a permanent board member of the organization.
In an interview with Haaretz newspaper, Shabtai said: “You have an amazing product, which is Israeli soldiers. Let me take a chance and create another product for people to understand what an amazing product we have here.’”
In other business realms, it has been reported that last year Shabtai ventured into historic landmark real estate arena by purchasing the New Haven, Connecticut 19th century Anderson Mansion. The stately edifice is replete with marble fireplaces and larger than life stained glass windows. A renovation and endowment campaign that will run into the multi-million dollar range is planned and the home which will open in the fall will serve as the new gateway to the Yale University campus.
And speaking of Yale University, it appears that the iconic Ivy League institution of higher learning has attracted Shabtai’s attention in a number of ways. He has funded “a Jewish leadership society there – one that regularly attracts the most successful names in business, journalism, arts, politics, academia and religion to its table,” according to the Haaretz report.