January 05, 2010

888 founder Aharon Shaked passes away

The co-founder of online gambling giant 888, Aharon Shaked, passed away on Saturday at age 58 following a difficult battle with illness, Israeli business news site The Marker reported.

The businessman, who previously practiced dentistry in his native Israel, made a fortune in the online gambling world together with his brother Avi Shaked after the two established 888 Holdings in 1997.

The idea for the company began at a dentistry conference in Monte Carlo in the 1990s, when Shaked noticed the large amounts of people flocking to the city's casino, and on his return to Israel made a decision with his brother to establish an online casino. Although neither brother had any previous experience in gambling, the two spent time at casinos in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, where they learnt the trade and picked up the knowledge that would help them create their empire.

The brothers mortgaged their houses in 1995 in order to obtain the funds to establish 888, and the rest is history. The company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2005, at a time when Aharon and Avi Shaked owned 70 percent of the stocks. They each sold stocks worth $91.3 million and both held on to stocks worth $267 million each.

Aharon Shaked told a British newspaper following the company's listing that his new found wealth would not change his life, vowing that rather than spend it all on fancy restaurants and new cars, he would put the profits toward charities for underprivileged children in Israel.

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