Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his son Yair Netanyahu have unclaimed shares in major US corporations, an Israeli academic based in California has found.
Roy Peled, a visiting professor at Berkeley, found the properties by searching through public databases of unclaimed properties in the US, posting the results on Facebook last week.
The searches revealed that the Netanyahus have shares in the Walt Disney Corporation, video game giant Electronic Arts and defunct broadcaster Citadel, which owned hundreds of stations before going under and being bought out in 2011 for $2.4 billion.
The publicly available information offers some clues into the amount of money or shares at stake. On a California state database, the prime minister and his son are listed as owning 40 unclaimed Disney shares each, which at current prices would be worth about $4,760 for each of them, plus another $46 in dividends.
However, California law requires that the state sell unclaimed shares 18-20 months after companies report them and hold the money for the owner, so the actual value depends on what the shares were worth at the time of that sale.
אחדש לכם משהו על אינטרסים כלכליים/עסקיים של בנימין ויאיר נתניהו.המידע נאסף ממקורות גלויים לגמרי באתרי ממשל רשמיים…
Holdings listed for Electronic Arts show only that they are worth over $50. It is unclear what the nature of the unclaimed holdings are; they may be stocks or unclaimed rebates from the purchase of video games.
A single share of EA stock was worth around $50 in 2004, but the company has seen its share price surge over the last year, as the pandemic has boosted the entire video game industry. In February, the price neared $150 per share.
Holdings for Citadel show they are shares worth over $100, but accompanying data shows that dividends attached to them are worth less than $50, indicating that the number of shares is likely low. While Citadel Broadcasting shares were briefly worth over $20 each in 2003, by 2009 the stock price had dropped to a penny and the company was delisted, meaning the shares are likely worthless.
The address listed for the Netanyahus in some of the registries is 1 Kaplan St. in Pasadena, California. While there is no Kaplan street in the Los Angeles suburb, 1 Kaplan in Jerusalem is the address of the Finance Ministry, which was headed by the elder Netanyahu from 2003 to 2005.
A spokesperson for the prime minister said the shares were a “modest bar mitzvah gift given to Yair Netanyahu from a since-deceased friend. The details of the original gift were lost soon after it was given and the gift was never actualized.”
Yair Netanyahu, now 29, would have had his bar mitzvah in 2004, when Netanyahu was finance minister.
The spokesperson did not respond to questions about the amount of the holdings or the strangely amalgamated address.
Peled, who normally teaches at the College of Management in Rishon Lezion, posited that sunlight would help clear up any possible suspicions surrounding the shares.
“More transparency of capital gains disclosures by government members, especially the prime minister… would help us know if they are suspect or not,” he wrote Thursday.
Israeli regulations require elected officials to disclose their capital holdings and those of their immediate family to the state comptroller. However, the disclosures are kept locked away by the comptroller and are not made public.
Conflict of interest rules also require the prime minister to place any securities in a blind trust, with no say over how they are managed.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s net worth is estimated at around NIS 50 million ($15.5 million), according to reports.
Both Netanyahus have come under public scrutiny for their relationships with wealthy businessmen and gifts from them. One of the three graft cases the prime minister is being tried in revolves around such gifts from businessman and film producer Arnon Milchan, among others.
The elder Netanyahu has also faced questions over his holdings in Texas-based manufacturer SeaDrift Coke, which he bought in 2007 for $400,000 and reportedly sold to his cousin Nathan Milikowsky in 2010 for $4.3 million. The holdings and capital gains were not disclosed to the comptroller as required and were not transferred to a blind trust. Netanyahu has claimed that he asked for and received a waiver on placing the shares in a blind trust due to the fact that he was a passive investor in the firm.