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Schlesinger, Isidore William


SCHLESINGER, ISIDORE WILLIAM (1877–1949), South African financier and entrepreneur. The son of an Austrian-Jewish immigrant in the United States, he went to South Africa in 1894. He built up an extensive financial and industrial empire in a relatively short time, beginning his career in Johannesburg as an insurance agent. In a few years he had established his own insurance and banking companies. In real estate he helped to develop a number of townships in Johannesburg and other cities. In 1914 he opened a chain of theaters and cinemas and for a long time held a virtual monopoly in those fields. He formed the first film production company in South Africa and, at his studios in Johannesburg, made the first regular South African newsreels and the earliest full-length films. He also established a broadcasting service, which was eventually taken over by the state to become the South African Broadcasting Corporation. His citrus-growing estate at Zebedelia (Transvaal) became one of the biggest in the world. He regarded this as his crowning achievement and, at his own wish, was buried there. His interests extended to Rhodesia, Portuguese East Africa, and Tanganyika, and he owned music halls in England. He played little part in public life but headed the Keren Hayesod campaign when Chaim *Weizmann visited South Africa in 1932.

He was succeeded as head of the Schlesinger Organization by his only son, john samuel schlesinger (1923– ).


A.P. Cartwright, South Africa's Hall of Fame (1960).

[Louis Hotz]

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