|Washington Scene: MIDDLEEAST.ORG
ON TOP OF ALL THE SPYING AND LOBBYING
SHARON'S "DEAR PERSONAL FRIEND" BUYS THE DEMOCRATS BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
Mid-East Realities - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 20 November:
Now he, Haim Saban, didn't quite literally buy it, The Brookings
Institution, all. He just kicked in some super-big bucks and got
himself a new Institute dealing with the Middle East in Washington with
both his own name and that of Brookings on the door. And then to head
it up he installed the guy the Israelis had brought over to the U.S. in
the 1980s to head up their then new Near East Institute think-tank, the
guy whose citizenship was rushed through when Bill Clinton got elected
so he could become a top Middle East official working on behalf of the
Israelis from inside the U.S. government.
Yes we know, to those
not in the know about such Washington affairs things like this
sometimes sound more like fiction than reality. But we assure
you...this is all very much part of the factual realities
behind-the-scenes in Washington these days, no matter how much it is
socially and politically incorrect to spill the beans so openly.
This little feature story from the New York Times Magazine
a few months ago is full of interesting facts about Haim Saban -- but
lacks both the crucial Washington context and the overall Israeli
conspiracy aspects. Yes, we used the word 'conspiracy' on purpose.
For the Israelis and the many organizations that make up the extended
Israeli-Jewish lobby headquartered in Washington very purposefully use
a few crucial think-tanks and institutes to constantly manipulate and
control the media. And in doing so they also considerably influence
policies while at the same time positioning those in their pay for key
government positions no matter whether it's Democrats or Republicans in
In the case of Haim Saban, Martin Indyk, and Brookings this little
deal was done shortly after Bush defeated Gore four years ago now.
Walla - The Saban Institute at The Brookings Institution headed by
Indyk and of course fronting for the Israelis no matter how much they
Back in 1983, after the bad press from the invasion of Lebanon,
Israel's American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, spun off a
think-tank since known as the Near East Institute. It was to head up
this Institute that Indyk was first brought to the U.S., an Australian
citizen with extensive Israeli intelligence connections.
During the Clinton years it was Martin Indyk and the infamous
Dennis Ross, also formerly connected with AIPAC, who ran the 'Peace
Process'. Cut to the chase...Clinton had had to pay off his big
campaign debt to crucial Jewish advisers and money-men but putting
these operatives in charge in both the National Security Council and
the State Department.
With Gore's unexpected defeat in 2000 Ross went back to head up
AIPAC's Near East Institute as well as a new division in Israel's
Jewish Agency working to push Jews worldwide to emigrate to the Jewish
State. That's when Saban stepped in, and Brookings sold out, with
Indyk put in charge of this largely Democratic Party think-tank's
Middle East affairs.
Now had John Kerry won the Presidency earlier this month he was
heavily mortaged and deeply indebted to Haim Saban, one of the very top
multi-million dollar campaign contributors and Democratic Party
moneymen, as well as a close circle of Israeli-lobby connected Jewish
Zionist advisers and financiers. Had that been the case both Indyk
and Ross were already prepared to go back into key U.S. government
Now read the details about Haim Saban keeping all this crucial
perspective and context in mind which the nation's 'newspaper of
record' largely ommitted.
Haim Saban, who
turned cartoons into a multibillion-dollar fortune, has an
overlooking Los Angeles, but his world view centers on Israel - NYTimes.
"To me he will
always be a dear personal friend." - Ariel Sharon
Schlepping to Moguldom
By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
<>LOS ANGELES - HAIM SABAN, one of the nation's richest and most improbable
magnates, was slouched in a leather seat aboard his Gulfstream jet
during a trip from Los Angeles to New York this spring, rattling on
about his support for Israel. After devouring a bagel covered in lox,
he leaned forward and launched into his favorite story from the
Democratic presidential primaries.
"Did I tell you what Howard Dean told me?" he asked, knowing
well that he had not, at least not yet today. "Do you know how he tells
me that he is going to support Israel?" he recounted, with a look of
incredulity. "He tells me, 'Don't you know my wife is Jewish?' "
Mr. Saban, 59, let out a sharp laugh, pausing for effect,
delivering his punch line. "Do you know what I told him? I said,
'Governor, the fact that your wife is Jewish is your problem.' "
A self-described "cartoon schlepper," Mr. Saban became a
by turning the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers into a global franchise
that he merged with Rupert Murdoch's News
Corporation and, in 2001, sold to the Walt
for $5.3 billion. He has since emerged as perhaps the most politically
connected mogul in Hollywood, throwing his weight and money around
Washington and, increasingly, the world, trying to influence all things
"I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel," he said in his
first extensive interview in years.
To that end, he has become one of the largest individual
the country to the Democratic Party and its candidates, giving millions
over the past decade - $7 million in just one donation to the
Democratic National Committee in 2002. He recently had Senator
John Kerry over to his chateau-style home in Beverly Hills. ("We played
guitar and kibitzed," he said.) He regularly spends hours at a time on
the phone with Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister. He vacations
with Bill Clinton.
At the same time, Mr. Saban has been bidding - or at least
the tires - on media properties around the world as he looks to expand
his empire and, by extension, his political reach.
But what really has people talking in Hollywood and Washington
his most ambitious project yet: he is the proud owner of the largest
television broadcaster in Germany. "I know, I know. I get the irony,"
he said with a smile.
A year ago, Mr. Saban beat out his one-time partner, Mr.
and many other media titans to buy the broadcaster, ProSiebenSat.1
Media, putting him in control of a company that owns the rough
equivalent of CBS, ABC, TBS and Nickelodeon.
"That level of ownership would never be allowed in the U.S.,"
he acknowledged. "It would be too much concentration."
Since taking over the broadcaster, he has turned it around -
costs and sending it American hits like "The OC," a Fox Network series
about teenage tribulations, and "Nip/Tuck," a drama centered in a
plastic surgery clinic. Not only is the company making money, but Mr.
Saban may finally be shaking a reputation that has long dogged him:
that he has gone further on luck than talent.
"It's easy to be jealous of someone like Haim," said Peter
president and chief executive of the News Corporation. "But I think the
Germany situation has the potential to be not just a financial score
but serve as the cornerstone of something bigger."
That, Mr. Saban readily acknowledged, is the plan. As one of
richest people in Hollywood, he hears about possible deals constantly.
He is toying with the idea of buying The Jerusalem Post from Hollinger
International, which has been canvassing for buyers. "If they ever
come to earth with the price, I would be interested in it," he said.
He has also stirred controversy in Britain, where he publicly
expressed interest in buying ITV, the country's biggest commercial
network, while accusing its competitors, BBC News and Sky News, the
news arm of the pay-TV provider British
Sky Broadcasting, of pro-Arab coverage.
Of course, not every deal has panned out. Last year, he joined
consortium led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. that was bidding on Warner Music,
only to drop out at the 11th hour, worried that the group was
overpaying. Now that Warner Music is on an upswing, it looks as if he
may have missed an opportunity. But Mr. Saban says he has moved on.
"I don't even think about it," he said.
Mr. Saban said he had other deals up his sleeve, but he
tip his hand. You can count on him to pursue them tirelessly. "I don't
play golf and I don't collect stamps,'' he said. "I don't ride horses.
I don't go mountain hiking, I don't go star gazing. I don't do any of
Don't bother asking him what his hobby is. "I have none. Zero.
It's my family and work."
Mr. Saban's path to moguldom has certainly been unusual. He
in Egypt but fled to Tel Aviv with his parents, his brother and his
grandmother after the 1956 Suez War. Struggling to get by, the family
lived in a one-room apartment and shared a bathroom, he recalled, "with
a hooker and a pimp."
As a teenager, he took up the bass guitar and began managing
and promoting concerts. But his business was wiped out by the 1973 Yom
Kippur War and he decided to move to Paris with his business partner,
HIS big break came soon after that. While vacationing in Tel
he got a call from a producer in Paris who wanted one of Mr. Saban's
clients, Noam Kaniel, a child singer, to record the theme song for a
cartoon called "Goldorak," which was wildly popular in France in the
70's. So he flew back to France and headed to the studio.
"It was just one of the worst songs I ever heard in my life,"
recalled. "But we schlepped all the way there so I said, 'Let's do it
so we can get out of here and get back to the pool at the Sheraton in
Tel Aviv.' " About a month later, Mr. Saban got a copy of the master
and a bill for $2,000 from the producer.
"I said: 'I do you a favor and you want $2,000. I don't want
master,' '' he remembered. "So now I'm schlepping around to record
companies looking for someone to give me a licensing deal and pay me an
advance of $2,000. But the song is so awful nobody wants to give it to
me, nobody. So I find this guy at CBS just out of school who is willing
to just ship a few hundred copies."
When "Goldorak" became hugely successful, its theme song
selling, and those few hundred copies soon turned into 3.5 million.
During that process, he had his eureka moment. Because he
master recording for the TV program, he collected all of the profit. "I
found out on a TV deal all the money came to me, not to the record
company,'' he said. "On a licensing deal you only get 20 percent. I was
swimming in money. I didn't know what to do with myself. Everything
went whoosh from there."
He and his partner started releasing music soundtracks in
television shows like "Dallas" and "Knots Landing." In late 1983, Mr.
Saban moved to Los Angeles and began writing and producing cartoon
soundtracks, though not always with much success.
"When I moved to this country in 1983, you can rest assured
they weren't waiting in lines to meet me and see me and make deals with
me," he said. "Did I wait for hours for a cartoon producer to see me so
I could play him some of our music and after hours his assistant would
come out and say, 'Well, he won't be able to see you today'? Yes."
Soon, however, he was on a roll. He wrote the theme song for
cartoon series that eventually became the Disney movie "Inspector
Gadget," for example, and then bought the television rights to the
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the creators of the comic book
characters. The television program became an overnight sensation.
Then, in 1985, on a business trip to Tokyo, he hit gold in a
the Imperial Hotel. "They have all these crazy game shows on and I
didn't understand anything and then this thing came on," he said,
referring to a children's cartoon show known as "Dinosaur Task Force
"I said: 'Oh my God. Oh my God.' It was fascinating. I thought
it was magical. It was incredible."
For half a million dollars - "which is not nothing," he noted
bought the rights to broadcast the program outside of Asia. After eight
years of begging and pleading, he finally persuaded the News
Corporation's Fox Network to broadcast the show, renamed "The Mighty
Morphin Power Rangers," in the summer of 1993. It was an instant hit.
With the hottest children's show in the world on his hands,
Saban formed a joint venture with Fox in 1996. It turned out to be a
shrewd move. The next year, the venture acquired the Family Channel
from its founder, Pat Robertson, for $1.9 billion and turned it into
the Fox Family Channel. Four years later, Michael D. Eisner, the Disney
chief executive, negotiated a deal to buy the channel for Disney for
THE deal is considered one of Mr. Eisner's worst, one that he
acknowledged as a drag on his company. But Mr. Saban walked away with
some $2 billion for himself. "People say they overpaid,'' Mr. Saban
said. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I will be very honest with
you and this may sound somewhat arrogant - I will tell you that I ended
up with about a half-billion less than what I thought I could have
gotten for those assets."
In any event, some of the proceeds from that sale helped to
underwrite Mr. Saban's relatively newfound passion: politics.
He said he caught the political bug in the mid-1990's, when he
that support for Israel was slipping in the United States. He and his
wife, Cheryl (who, by the way, is not Jewish), slept in the White House
several times during President Clinton's two terms. And Mr. Saban has
remained close to the former president.
"Haim Saban has been a very good friend, supporter and adviser
me," Mr. Clinton said in an e-mail message. "I am grateful for his
commitment to Israel, to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East
and to my foundation's work, particularly on reconciliation issues."
Mr. Clinton might have added that he is also grateful for Mr.
Saban's commitment to the Democratic Party, including his $7 million
donation two years ago, the largest individual donation in its history.
While Mr. Saban is a vocal opponent of President
Bush - "I think Bush is just messing it up every day more" - he
supports some of Mr. Bush's policies. "On the issues of security and
terrorism I am a total hawk," he said. "I'm a Democrat for the
reinforcement of the Patriot Act. It's not strong enough. The A.C.L.U.
can eat their heart out, but they are living in the 1970's. We should
all have ID's. You betcha. What do you have to hide? Some friends of
mine on the left side think I'm crazy."
Why is he so supportive of Israel? "I hate quoting Tom DeLay,
really do," Mr. Saban said. "If you're going to quote me quoting Tom
DeLay, say I hate quoting him." He continued, apparently quoting Mr.
DeLay, the House Republican leader: "He said: 'It is the right thing
for us to do to be supportive of Israel. The reasons go back to the
beginning of time.' "
Mr. Saban's views on the matter are straightforward. He is a
tireless cheerleader for Israel. But when it comes to conflict there,
his views are hardly sanguine. "I'm going to make a very controversial
statement and I hope to God that I am proven totally wrong: I think
that any resolution will have to go both on the Palestinian side and
Israeli side to some form of civil war. It's not going to be without
In 2002, he pledged $13 million to start a research
the Brookings Institution called the Saban Center for Middle East
Policy. ("I've heard from leaders on both sides of the aisle in the
United States and leaders in Europe about what Sharon shouldn't do," he
said. "I've haven't heard one educated suggestion about what he should
do.") Mr. Saban spends hours every week drumming up support for a
variety of charitable causes and, especially, for Israel, sponsoring
lunches and dinners at his home and around the country to raise money
for candidates who he believes will support his cause. "He has no
hesitation to bang on your door for a cause he believes in," said Ron
Meyer, president of Universal Studios, who called Mr. Saban one of the
few guys "who puts his money where his mouth is."
In a faxed letter, Mr. Sharon said of Mr. Saban: "To me he
always be a dear personal friend. Haim Saban is a great American
citizen and a man who always stood by Israel and the Jewish people in
times of need. His contribution to strengthening ties between Israel
and American political leaders from all parties has been quite
remarkable and outstanding.''
So how did Mr. Saban wind up putting so much of his money in
In 2002, Leo Kirch's empire, KirchMedia, the largest media
in Europe, went bankrupt. Flush with cash from the sale of Fox Family
to Disney, Mr. Saban was scouring for deals and sensed an opportunity.
"These kind of assets people don't go around selling," he said. "At a
normal time we wouldn't have had a prayer in hell."
BY his own account, the timing was perfect. "There was a very
window of opportunity where every single studio had its own issues," he
said, and his rivals, thus distracted, were not in a good position to
bid against him. Mr. Murdoch never had his heart in the auction because
he was working on his deal for DirecTV. Time
Warner was still struggling with its acquisition of AOL. Viacom
could not get enthusiastic about the deal. And Disney was still
struggling with the purchase of Fox Family, renamed ABC Family.
"Our biggest advantage was that we had the cash but no
Mr. Saban said. "These assets really should have been bought by one of
the majors as an outlet for their programming in Europe." Indeed, he is
now among the biggest single buyers of Hollywood programming outside of
the United States.
In Germany, foreign entrepreneurs like John C. Malone, chief
executive of the Liberty Media Group, have failed in efforts to buy
assets, perhaps because their cavalier attitude created problems with
regulators. Mr. Saban sweet-talked them. He also used some of his
political influence, asking the American ambassador to put in a good
word for him.
Mr. Saban has not been shy about calling on his political
help sell advertising, too. This year, he invited Germany's most
prominent advertising executives to his home in Los Angeles for dinner
with Mr. Clinton. The executives, he said, were stunned.
"These people never saw Leo Kirch in their life," Mr. Saban
"They never saw him. And now the new owner all of a sudden has them in
his home with Bill Clinton speaking to them."
Mr. Saban remembers precisely where he was when he clinched
for ProSiebenSat.1: on his cellphone, as he was standing in the middle
of the former concentration camp at Dachau, where he and his family had
gone to visit. "I found it kind of interesting, to say the least, that
the timing and the geography all came together the way they did," he
Investing in Germany was an easier decision for him than some
might imagine, he said. "I'm not suggesting we ignore what happened in
Germany 50 years ago," he said, "but I am suggesting that we don't
allow it to keep us from going into the future."
He added that the German government had been very supportive
but not because of his history. "There have been all kinds of theories
because of the fact that I'm an Israeli-American and the like,'' he
said. "I don't think so. I think it's a pure economic issue."
Well, maybe not all economics. Haim Saban "is not like one of
guys just assembling trophy properties," said Steven Rattner, the
managing director of the Quadrangle Group, an investment firm that
backed Mr. Saban in ProSiebenSat.1. "He'd rather be considered a mogul
in Germany than here,'' Mr. Rattner said. "He thinks Germany is
critical to Israel."