Michael Strauss: A Life in Business

Michael Strauss: A Life in Business -

Michael Strauss (May 1, 1934 – October 17, 2020) was an Israeli businessman who served as the CEO of the Strauss Group from 1975 to 2001.

Early Life and Background

Born to Richard (Dr. of Economics) and Hilda Strauss in Ulm, Nazi Germany, in 1934, Michael immigrated with his family to the Land of Israel in 1936. The same year, his parents established a small dairy in their backyard in Nahariya.

His mother initiated a cheese-making business, which later evolved into the Strauss Group. Michael attended the Naval School in Haifa and served in the Israeli Navy as a guide.

After completing his military service, he pursued a dairy technology course at the Weizmann Institute and later studied at a dairy technology school in Switzerland.

Over the years, Michael Strauss held various positions within the Strauss Group for approximately 12 years. Afterward, he worked for three years at Adanim, an ice cream company operating in southern Israel. He returned to the family business, the dairy, and played a pivotal role in its development.

In 1975, following his father's passing, Michael Strauss was appointed as the Chairman of Strauss Dairies. In 1991, he was named the President and CEO of the Strauss Group.

Under his leadership, the group expanded its business activities and became a significant player in the Israeli food industry. In 1995, Michael Strauss initiated the group's international expansion, leading to a partnership agreement with Unilever, which acquired a 51% stake in Strauss Ice Cream (later increasing to approximately 90%).

Additionally, he collaborated with the global company Danone, which started producing yogurt products under the international brand. Eventually, Danone acquired a 20% stake in the dairy.

In 1997, Michael Strauss orchestrated a strategic move to partner with the "Elite" company and acquire a substantial interest in it, marking a significant entry into the international coffee market.

Under his leadership, the Strauss Group became the fifth-largest coffee producer globally in terms of green coffee procurement, focusing its coffee activities in Central and Eastern Europe, Israel, and Brazil.

One of his most notable achievements, before retiring from active management, was the 1999 partnership with the giant corporation PepsiCo-Frito Lay. This partnership laid the foundation for another collaboration that developed in 2007 in the fresh salad sector when PepsiCo became a 50% partner in Sabra, a company co-owned by Strauss.

In 2001, Michael Strauss passed the leadership of the group to his daughter, Ofra, while he continued to serve as the Chairman of Strauss Holdings (the holding company of the family shares and controlling interest in the Strauss Group).

He also became a member of the group's board of directors. In June 2011, he announced his retirement as a director of the company, with his son Adi taking his place.

Under Michael Strauss's leadership and guidance, the Strauss Group grew rapidly, achieved numerous milestones, and became a significant player in the Israeli economy. The company operates in over 20 countries, employing 7,000 people in Israel and approximately 14,000 worldwide. His sister, Raya Strauss-Ben Dror, joined him and contributed to shaping the company's image until her retirement in 2003.

Michael Strauss, along with his sister Raya Strauss-Ben Dror, co-founded "Strauss Investments," a company engaged in financial and investment activities in Israel and abroad.

Even when he was no longer actively involved in the public stock exchange activities of the Strauss Group, Michael Strauss remained the controlling shareholder. He served as the Chairman of Strauss Holdings – the parent company of Strauss Group, a publicly-traded corporation.

Additionally, he held directorship positions and controlling interests in other private companies, such as Strauss Investments, Rav Etgar, and Michael Strauss Properties.

According to Forbes magazine's 2011 rankings of the world's billionaires, Michael Strauss and his family were estimated to have a wealth of $1.1 billion. In the same year, they were ranked 12th on the list of Israel's richest individuals and 1,057th on the list of the world's wealthiest people.

Public and Philanthropic Activities

Throughout his years of involvement with the Strauss Group and even after his retirement from active management, Michael Strauss was actively engaged in various public activities. He served as a member of the Small Dairies Committee, Chairman of the Israeli Food Manufacturers Association, and was a member of several public councils.

He also chaired the Food Division at the Manufacturers Association of Israel and was a member of the Association's presidency. Additionally, he volunteered for more than 17 years to promote the development of the city of Acre.

He played a significant role in shaping the city's vision, raising funds, establishing cultural and educational facilities, and encouraging companies and industries to invest in the city and expand its employment opportunities.

In 1983, he was honored with the Industry Award in the food category by the Manufacturers Association of Israel. In 2007, he was awarded the Israel Prize for his substantial contribution to the economic development of the Galilee region and the State of Israel as a whole.

In May 2006, he received the honorary citizenship of Acre in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the city's development.

In 2006, Michael Strauss was also honored with the Dan David Prize for his outstanding long-term managerial excellence, as selected by the leaders of the Israeli economy.

Personal Life

Michael Strauss resided in Nahariya and was a father to three children: Ofra Strauss, Eirit Strauss-Koppler (married to Leon Koppler, owner of the Super Pharm retail chain), and Adi Strauss. His sister is Raya Strauss-Ben Dror.

Michael Strauss passed away on October 17, 2020, at Asuta Medical Center, Tel Aviv.

Michael Strauss's legacy is not only one of business success but also a testament to his dedication to philanthropy and the betterment of his community and country. His contributions have left an indelible mark on the Israeli economy and society.

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