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Eli Hurvitz, Founder of Teva, Dies at 79



Eli Hurvitz, who began his career washing lab equipment at a drug company and went on to build Teva Pharmaceutical Industries into the largest generic drug maker in the world, has died. While no cause was given, in an interview with the newspaper Yediot Aharonot earlier this year Mr. Hurvitz said he had cancer. “I am not the type to surrender,” he told the paper. “That is how it was in business, and that is how it is with the illness.”


Mr. Hurvitz started out in the 1950s at Assia, a small pharmaceutical company partly owned by his father-in-law, in Petah Tikva, east of Tel Aviv. He became managing director in 1976 and merged Assia with two other small firms, Zori and Teva, to form the company now known as Teva, which means “nature” in Hebrew. Mr. Hurvitz was the president and chief executive of Teva for the next 25 years. Through aggressive mergers and acquisitions, a reputation for quality and low prices, Teva grew into a giant that supplied one of every six prescriptions dispensed in the United States. It has a presence in 60 countries and 45,000 employees. In 2010, it reached $16 billion in sales.


Eliyahu Hurvitz was born in Jerusalem in 1932 and moved to Tel Aviv with his family as a child. When the state of Israel was founded and the Arab-Israeli war broke out in 1948, Mr. Hurvitz was drafted and spent time on a kibbutz as part of a unit that established agricultural settlements. He then went on to study economics at a branch of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Tel Aviv. In 1953, he married Dalia Solomon and began working at Assia.


Mr. Hurvitz was awarded the Israel Prize in 2002 for lifetime achievement and his contributions to the state and society. In addition to his business, he had been chairman of Bank Leumi, president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel and chairman of the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent research institute in Jerusalem.


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