Montreal, Canada - Hard Work And Schooling Pave The Way To Success, Says Self-Made Canadian Charedi Billionaire
Montreal, Canada - An Orthodox Canadian billionaire well known for his philanthropic efforts and his Israeli real estate projects credits hard work and education for his financial successes.
In an Arutz Sheva exclusive interview, Hershey Friedman of Montreal spoke of his humble beginnings and difficult circumstances brought on when his father was in a serious car accident when he was just ten years old.
“I wasn’t handed over a silver spoon on a golden platter,” said Friedman. “I worked for what I have today.”
Because of his father’s years long hospitalization, his mother was forced to take over the family business while also running a household and raising three sons.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Friedman left Montreal at age 13 to attend Yeshiva Ner Israel in Baltimore, moving on to Monsey’s Yeshiva Bais Shraga two years later before returning home. By age 17, Friedman was working in the family business while his two older brothers stayed in yeshiva, but Friedman’s interest in business had begun years earlier.
“I was more business oriented even as a little child and I was always somehow or other making money,” said Friedman.
Freidman recalled selling pencils as a youngster and as he got older, he frequented construction sites in order to buy lunches for the workmen who would reward him with tips. Later in the day Friedman would return to the same site, picking up deposit bottles and turning them in for cash.
“I was like a little businessman even as a little kid and growing up,” remarked Friedman.
As soon as he graduated high school, Friedman reinvigorated the family business, buying new equipment and moving to a new location. He attended college at night, taking classes in commercial law and accounting. Within four and a half years, the business had grown so much that Friedman was working two eight hour shifts a day.
While the move to a 16 hour workday forced Friedman to drop out of college just six months shy of receiving his degree, he noted the importance of a proper schooling.
“I got the base of my education,” said Friedman “It was really worth it.”
Friedman moved into the plastics, printing and flexible packing business approximately ten years later, taking a company on the verge of bankruptcy and putting it back on solid financial footing. Over the few years he earned a reputation as a turnaround specialist, buying more than two dozen more companies, some in the packaging business, others in unrelated areas and enjoying significant financial returns.
Friedman made headlines when he bought the troubled Agriprocessors meat plant in Postville, Iowa in 2009 as reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2c1ZvWk). Under Friedman’s direction, the facility was renamed Agri Star and now uses the government’s E-Verify system to ensure the legality of all workers at the plant, as reported by JTA.
Friedman said that he spent “millions and millions” to upgrade the plant, which places a premium on quality, making little profit on the product in order to keep prices affordable.
In recent years Friedman has invested heavily in Israeli residential real estate, noting that as his own children went to yeshivos in Israel and spent time there as young marrieds, he too, began spending more time in Israel and started investing in small projects.
“I started…putting my heart into Israel and started to do some developments,” said Friedman. “I felt it was the right thing.”
Azorim, Friedman’s real estate company, builds luxury buildings marketed to Jews living overseas. While many Israelis describe dwellings owned by those living outside Israel as “dark apartments” because they are unused much of the time, Friedman disputed that notion, saying that the apartments are inhabited frequently by their owners and their married children who may be living in Israel for extended periods of time.
Friedman noted that while the Israeli government has called for more affordable housing for Israelis, it undermines its own efforts by selling land to the highest bidder at public auction, a process that can double or triple the price of land.
“When the government tries to regulate what you can sell a house for and then the land goes up for public auction, it doesn’t work,” observed Friedman.
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