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July 08, 1994 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-07-08

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eal estate tycoon Yosef
Buchman was only 24
when he made his first ma-
jor property deal.
He was an odd-job man, living
in Frankfurt, not a likely candi-
date for a tycoon.
Born in Lodz, Poland, Mr.
Buchman was interned in
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-
Belsen between the ages of 9 and
15. A survivor of the camps, he
settled in Frankfurt after wait-
ing three years for a visa to join
an uncle in the United States.
Meanwhile, the uncle died, and
Mr. Buchman worked as a taxi
driver and in the garment trade
in Frankfurt.
The big break and the big deal
came in 1956, via a chance en-
counter with an American officer.
The American, who had been
among the forces that liberated
him from Bergen-Belsen, was
now the head of Shell in Frank-
furt. He mentioned to Mr. Buch-
man that he was looking for
investors for a 38-story building
that woulclhouse Shell.
Mr. Buchman asked for three
days to see what he could do. He
approached a bank, which on the
basis of the knowledge that Shell-
would be leasing the building,
agreed to fully finance construc-
tion.
The timing was perfect. The
cost of Frankfurt real estate did
nothing but rise, and Mr. Buch-
man's rental income multiplied.
Acquiring loans was no longer a
problem.
Today, Mr. Buchman's real es-
tate empire stretches around the
world and makes him one of the
100 richest men in Germany. In
November 1992, Fortune maga-
zine estimated his wealth at $700
million; others say it's more.
Neither Mr. Buchman nor his
representatives will talk about
the exact figures.
Mr. Buchman, 64, who likes to
be called by his Yiddish name,
Yossele, says he will never forget
who he was. The need to remem-
ber is what fuels his donations to
institutions in Israel. His latest
contribution was a $3 million gift
to the law faculty of Tel Aviv Uni-
versity.
The law school has been
named after his parents, Eliez-
er and Chaya Sarah, who died in
the Holocaust.
Their names will appear on
everything related to the school,
down to the stationery and the
diplomas, according to Mr. Buch-
man's agreement with the uni-
versity. He is childless and this is
his way of passing on his parents'
name.

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"Having their name on this
school is much more important
than my name there," Mr. Buch-
man says.
His 11-year relationship with
Tel Aviv University has focused
on a scholarship fund for out-
standing students and reflects his
admiration, as someone who suc-
ceeded with no formal schooling,
for academic accomplishment.
"I have learned that, in life, it
is very important to study," he
said. "I am sure that a universi-
ty background would have made
my life easier in every aspect, not
only in the business world.
There's no doubt about it."
Although Mr. Buchman has
dealt only in real estate for the
past 38 years, the decade follow-
ing the war years brought him no-
toriety because of the nightclubs
he owned in Frankfurt and its en-
virons. Both the German and the
Hebrew press hinted the clubs
were fronts for prostitution and
black-market dealings.
Mr. Buchman ignored the
smears. But in 1991, when a Ger-
man television report accused
him of having underworld con-
nections, Mr. Buchman fought
the allegation head-on. The tele-
vision station, having no sub-
stantive proof for any of its
charges, came up with a letter of
apology.

"I get attached to
(my buildings) like a
little kid."

Yosef Buchman

Asked about the allegations,
Mr. Buchman says: "In Germany,
I really don't care about what peo-
ple say. But here in Israel it hurts,
just like it hurts more if someone
from your family abuses you. In
Germany, I know there is a re-
lationship between the stories
and political matters and the
anti-Semitism that still exists
there."
Lately, Mr. Buchman's Israeli
family has expressed its appreci-
ation for the $2 million he lav-
ishes annually on good causes.
Last year, Mr. Buchman received
an award from Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin for generosity to
the State of Israel.
In the past 11 years, Mr. Buch-
man gave more than $6 million
to Tel Aviv University — before
his gift to the law school. He also
has contributed a new $2 million
wing to Ichilov Hospital and a

new maternity wing for Sheba
Medical Center at Tel Hashomer,
which will also be named after his
parents.
Mr. Buchman gave $600,000
for the fountain that adorns
Dizengoff Square.
During the last elections, he
contributed to both the Labor
Party and the Likud, as well as
to independent candidate Yitzhak
Mod'ai. He is deeply involved in
real estate in Israel, building shel-
tered housing for the elderly in
Netanya, and he owns properties
in Rishon Lezion and Eilat.
He leases his holdings in Israel,
as he does in Germany and the
United States.
"I'm always emotionally con-
nected to my buildings," Mr.
Buchman said. "I don't sell them
if I don't have to. I get attached to
them like a little kid. I know the
policy in Israel is that people build
buildings and sell them. I like to
keep them."
Mr. Buchman is close to com-
pleting a deal with the Marriott
Hotels chain for a 500-room com-
plex on prime property he owns
at the corner of Frishman and
Hayarkon streets along the strip
of hotels on the Tel Aviv beach-
front. As soon as the municipal
planning board gives its approval,
he intends to move forward with
construction.
His most grandiose dream is a
$500-million project that will in-
clude a 6,700-room luxury hotel,
5,600 rental apartments and a
museum — the Buchman Muse-
um. He wants to build on prime
seaside property he owns which
currently houses the crumbling
Tel Aviv Dolphinarium.
Blueprints for the project have
been batted back and forth for
more than five years, and he is
submitting the latest draft to a lo-
cal architect for inspection.
A law prohibits construction
directly onto the sea, with no
shoreline in between. The mu-
nicipality has proposed turning
the Dolphinarium into a public
park, and having Mr. Buchman
build his hotel on an alternative
site, further south, next to the
Dan Panorama hotel, with a tun-
nel connecting it to the Dolphi-
narium.
Mr. Buchman still hopes to
build on the seaside, without Ha-
yarkon Street standing between
his complex and the ocean. To-
day, his lawyers believe, he has
precedents that he didn't have be-
fore. The kind of municipal per-
mission he wants has been given
in Haifa, Netanya, Ashdod,
Ashkelon and Herzliya. Why not
in Tel Aviv?

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