NET WORTH: $1.8 billion family fortune
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Chef America; Consolidated Investment Group
JEWISH FUNDING AREAS: Israel, Community
OVERVIEW: David Merage and his wife Laura move their philanthropy through the David & Laura Merage Foundation. The foundation has several focus areas, one of which is Israel. Merage Israel partners with social entrepreneurs dedicated to the prosperity of the State of Israel and its people. The couple's foundation also supports Jewish organizations in the U.S.
BACKGROUND: David Merage was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1949. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1968 and earned a B.S. in marketing from California State University. In 1975, he cofounded Chef America, a frozen food manufacturer known for inventing the Hot Pocket. The company sold to Nestle to $2.6 billion. Currently, David is principal of Consolidated Investment Group (CIG) and is an active international investor with a diverse portfolio of real estate, private equity and capital market investments.
DAVID AND LAURA MERAGE FOUNDATION: The couple's family foundation falls under the Merage Foundations, a series of philanthropic entities belonging to various Merage family members. Merage and Laura's charity focuses on early childhood education, arts and culture, community development, and Merage Israel. The foundation also gives grants to Jewish organizations stateside, including Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, Hillel of Colorado, Denver Jewish Day School, Jewish Family Services of Colorado, National Jewish Health and Anti-Defamation League.
Merage Israel launched in 2000. It partners with innovative social entrepreneurs dedicated to the prosperity of the State of Israel and its people. The outfit works to encourage "educational excellence, enrich cultural life, provide a wide range of employment opportunities, and develop high-quality residential areas with a multitude of community amenities throughout the Negev." The ultimate goal is for the "Negev to be a highly desirable, livable, and prosperous region by the year 2020."
Merage Israel works within several different interest areas including health, economic development, employment and entrepreneurship, and new communities.
LOOKING FORWARD: Expect Merage's support of the Jewish community to continue in Israel and at home in Colorado. It's worth noting that some of the other Merage family members have charitable vehicles that work within the Jewish community, such as the Sabrina Merage Foundation.