Hurvitz, Eli (1932–)

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Hurvitz, Eli

Israeli business leader Eli Hurvitz led Teva (Hebrew: "nature"), the firm he managed for more than twenty-five years, from a tiny domestic firm to a leading Israel-based global pharmaceutical company that has maintained an enviable record of consistent and rapid growth. His leadership, charisma, strategic vision, impressive business results, real influences over the economy, and excellent human relations are widely admired by business leaders in Israel and abroad.


Born in 1932 in Jerusalem, mandatory Palestine, Hurvitz moved to Tel Aviv with his family in 1934. In May 1948, when he was sixteen, his high school studies were cut short. He and his classmates were recruited to fight in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war in the army of the newly founded State of Israel. In early 1949 the youngsters resumed their studies for five months, completing their matriculation exams. After graduation Hurvitz wore a uniform again, and in November 1949 joined the border kibbutz Tel Katzir. There, he met Dalia Solomon. They were married in June 1953 and left the kibbutz in October 1953.

Hurvitz joined Assia Chemical Labs Ltd., a tiny firm of which Dalia's father was a managing partner. He washed dishes in the laboratory while pursuing his undergraduate studies in economics. After graduation from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1957 he began doing office work at Assia, moving to executive ranks. Assia merged with Zori in 1964 and in 1969 acquired a controlling interest in Teva. The three firms merged in 1976 into Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., with combined sales of US$28 million and with Hurvitz as the CEO. His early strategic vision was to create a market leader in Israel. He thus acquired Ikepharm with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved plant and Plantex, a leading producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients (1980), Migada, a manufacturer of disposable medical equipment (1984), and Abic, a drug manufacturer (September 1988).

Until 1985 Teva produced under license drugs and fine chemicals for the local market. By 1985 sales revenues were US$88 million. The limited size of the Israeli market was a barrier to further expansion. Together with W. R. Grace, Hurvitz acquired in 1985 Lemmon, a small generics company, to access the then-embryonic U.S. generic drugs market. Teva became a binational company. In 1990 W. R. Grace sold its Lemmon shares to Teva. Since then Hurvitz has led Teva to become a global leader in generic drug and active pharmaceutical ingredients manufacturer in Europe and North America with an annual growth rate of sales of over 20 percent (and more than that in profits), both organically and through mergers and acquisitions. By 2002, sales were US$2.519 billion. In 2006 sales were US$8.408 billion, of which $7.721 billion were in North America. Teva's headquarters is in Israel and it has subsidiaries in over fifty countries.


Name: Eli Hurvitz

Birth: 1932, Jerusalem, mandatory Palestine

Family: Wife, Dalia; one son, Chaim; two daughters, Vered and Daphne

Nationality: Israeli

Education: B.A. (economics), Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1957


  • 1953: Joined Assia-Pharmaceutical. Assia and Teva merged in 1976.
  • 1974–1978: Chairman of the Israel Export Institute
  • 1976–2002: CEO Teva Pharmaceutical
  • 1981–1986: President of the Israel Manufacturers Association
  • 1986–1987: Chairman of the board of Bank Leumi
  • 1989–1995: Chairman of the Executive Committee and Council of the Weizmann Institute of Science
  • 1990: Honorary doctorate of technological science; the Technion Israel Institute of Technology
  • 1994: Honorary doctorate of Philosophy, the Weizmann Institute of Science
  • 2002–present: Chairman of the board, Teva and the Israel Democracy Institute
  • 2004: Honorary doctorate of philosophy, Tel Aviv University
  • 2006: Business Leadership Award, America: Israel Chamber of Commerce Chicago

Hurvitz also aspired to leverage Israeli science. The huge investment required for research and development and regulatory approval of a new drug (estimated at US$1 billion) was beyond Teva's reach. It did develop, register, produce, and market molecules discovered by Israeli researchers, such as Copaxone for multiple sclerosis (registered in the United States in 1996), and a patented drug for the treatment of Parkinson's disease, approved for marketing in the European Union (2005) and the United States (2006). In 2005 sales of Copaxone were US$1.2 billion, 12 percent of Teva's global sales. In 2002 Hurvitz retired as the CEO of Teva, becoming chairman of its board. The firm continues to double its sales volume every four years.

Parallel to his career at Teva, Hurvitz served Israel's economy in other key roles: chairman of Israel Export Institute (1974–1978); president of Israel Manufacturers Association (1981–1986); chairman of the board of Bank Leumi (1986–1987); chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority (1989–1992); a member of the Advisory Committee of the Bank of Israel (1991–1995); director of Koor Industries Ltd. (1997–2004); and director of Magal Security System Ltd. (1992–1994). He also served as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Weizmann Institute of Science (1989–1995).

Hurvitz's achievements have been widely recognized. He received honorary doctorates from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology (1990), the Weizmann Institute of Science (1994), Ben-Gurion University (2002), and Tel Aviv University (2004). Among other numerous prizes and awards he received the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, most notably for being a unique contribution to the society and the state (2003) and Business Leader of the Decade from Dun & Bradstreet (2005). He served as a member of the International Council of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (2002–2005).

Since moving to chairing Teva, Hurvitz devotes much time to nurturing several biotechnological firms. In addition, he is a member of the board of governors of Tel Aviv University (since 2001), a director of Vishay Technologies (since 1997), and chair of the Israel Democracy Institute (since 2002).


Born in Palestine long before Israel was established, Hurvitz has been deeply committed to the building of a Jewish state. He devoted much time to public roles. He seized new opportunities in the U.S. and later European markets. The creation of an Israeli-based globally integrated, fast growing, generic drugs multinational has been a unique contribution. Further, by developing new medications discovered by Israeli academics, these researchers no longer have to license their discoveries to foreign firms.


A large home market is said to be a prerequisite for becoming global. Growth of firms from small countries is constrained by the size of their home market. Yet neither competing in foreign large markets nor integrating globally is easy. Many other Israelis had innovative technologies but were unable to manage growth processes and succumbed to acquisitions by large U.S.-based multinationals. Hurvitz is the only Israeli to nurture a global Israeli-based powerhouse. He thus is a role model for managers in other small countries.


Hurvitz led the firm he managed from a tiny producer of pills under license to a thirty-six-billion-tablets major global firm, all the while maintaining its Israeli identity and fast growth. Teva is the only Israeli firm successful in achieving this transformation.

                                              Yair Aharoni