Haim Saban is an Israeli-American media proprietor, investor, philanthropist, musician, record, film and television producer. He is ranked by Forbes as the 232nd richest person in America with an estimated net worth of $3 billion. Saban is the founder of Saban Entertainment, producer and distributor of children’s television programs in the U.S. such as Power Rangers. He headed up consortiums that purchased the broadcasters ProSiebenSat.1 Media and Univision Communications. He is a major donor to the Democratic Party and vocal supporter of Israel.
Saban was born in 1944 in Alexandria, Egypt, to an Egyptian Jewish family. In 1956, the Saban family immigrated to Israel, along with much of the Egyptian Jewish community. Expelled from an Aliyah Boarding School for being a troublemaker, he enrolled in a night school where the principal told him: “You’re not cut out for academic studies; you’re cut out for making money.”
Saban started his career in 1966 as a bass player and manager with the rock band The Lions of Judah (Ha’arayot), which was named after the Lion of Judah in Jewish Scripture. In 1969, Dave Watts from the British band The Tornados joined The Lions. That year the band traveled to England, where they performed in night clubs in London and were signed by Polydor Records. In July 1969, the band appeared on the BBC TV program Color Me Pop. The Lions recorded a single, “Our Love’s A Growing Thing,” but it was not released in the UK due to financial difficulties. The band returned to Israel and Saban focused on being a music promoter.
In the early 1970s, Saban moved to France where he worked as a music producer and launched a record company with Shuki Levy.
In 1978 and 1982, Saban used the pseudonym Kussa for music/lyrics writing credits on four records for which he also served as producer using his real name. Since then, he has frequently used the name Kussa Mahchi for his composing credits on Saban Entertainment productions, including the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie theme song.
In the United States, he became a television producer, founding Saban Entertainment in 1988. During that time, Saban and Levy became known for soundtrack compositions for children’s television programs. Although Levy and Saban composed for their own properties (such as Kidd Video and Maple Town), they scored for other production companies as well (such as Inspector Gadget, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, M.A.S.K., Dinosaucers, Dragon Quest, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors). In 1998, The Hollywood Reporter disclosed Saban did not compose all the music (totaling 3,700 works in 2008) he was given credited for and ten composers subsequently threatened to sue him before settling the case out of court.
In the 1990s, Saban’s company became best known for the production of Power Rangers, Masked Rider, VR Troopers and Big Bad Beetleborgs, which were Western adaptations of Japanese tokusatsu shows.
In 1996, News Corporation’s Fox Children’s Productions and Haim Saban’s Saban Entertainment merged to form Fox Kids Worldwide. With the growing shift in children’s television from over-the-air programming blocks to cable channels such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, the two companies sought to launch a competitor that would carry programming from the popular Fox Kids lineup. On July 23, 2001, Saban announced that he and News Corporation would sell Fox Family Worldwide for $5.3 billion to The Walt Disney Company. On October 24, 2001, the sale was completed and the network was renamed ABC Family.
In August 2003, Saban led a consortium, which acquired a controlling stake in the straggling ProSiebenSat.1 Media group from the Kirch Media Group, the then-bankrupt German media conglomerate. In March 2007, Saban Capital Group and the consortium sold its controlling interest in ProSiebenSat.1 to KKR and Permira, for 22.40 euros a share after originally paying 7.5 euros per share in 2003.
On June 27, 2006, Saban Capital Group led a group of investors bidding for Univision Communications, the largest Spanish-language media company in the United States. Other investors in the Saban-led group were Texas Pacific Group of Fort Worth, Texas and Thomas H. Lee Partners. The group was successful in acquiring Univision with a bid valued at $13.7 billion.
Saban, a long-time supporter of many pro-Israel causes and organizations admitted, “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” Saban became involved in domestic politics in the mid-1990s when he felt that support for Israel was slipping in the United States.
Saban has been a generous donor to the Democratic Party according to his mandatory Federal Election Commission filings. Mother Jones, in an analysis of the major donors to the campaigns of 1998 election cycle, ranked Saban 155th among individual donors. The New York Times reported that Haim and his wife “slept in the White House several times during President Clinton’s two terms.” Saban remains close friends with the former President, and Clinton has described Saban as a “very good friend and supporter.” Saban has contributed between $5 million to $10 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation.
During the 2000 presidential election, Saban increased his rank to 5th among individual donors with a combined contribution of $1,250,500. Matthew Yglesias wrote that :Saban was the largest overall contributor to the Democratic National Committee during the 2001–2002 cycle.” Saban’s donations during that 2001–2002 period exceeded $10 million, the largest donation the DNC has received from a single source up to that time.
Saban has also made donations to members of the Republican Party including a 2003 contribution to George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.
Saban supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential election and co-hosted a fundraiser for her with Steven Spielberg at the home of Peter Chernin, the President of News Corporation. According to the Los Angeles Times, the fundraiser brought in over $850,000.
He supported Clinton for president again in the 2016 election and called Republican candidate Donald Trump “a danger to America.” Between June 2015 and June 2016, he and his wife donated $7 million to Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton Super PAC.
In 2002, Saban provided an initial grant of $13 million and a pledge of additional funds to create the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The Center aims to provide policy makers in government with information and analysis regarding America’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Saban recruited Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, to direct the center.
Saban sponsors the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Saban National Political Leadership Training Seminar, a series of semiannual seminars in Washington to provide college students three days of intensive pro-Israel advocacy training.
Saban is married to Cheryl Lynn (Flor) Saban and has two children.