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888 Founder Shay Ben-Yitzhak Killed in Plane Crash

Shay Ben-Yitzhak, the Israeli businessman who co-founded online gaming giant 888 Holdings, died in a plane crash on Saturday, Israeli media reported.

Shay Ben-Yitzhak was the technical brains behind 888.com. He quit the board in 2010 to spend more time with his family. (Twitter)

His 11-year-old son, also a passenger, was initially believed to be gravely hurt, but was later said to have sustained only minor internal injuries.

Local reports make no mention of anyone else on board, suggesting Ben-Yitzhak was piloting the aircraft.

According to The Jerusalem Post, on Saturday morning fire and rescue crews responded to reports that a light aircraft had crashed near Yakum Kibbutz in Sharon, central Israel. They found father and son trapped inside the wreckage of the plane and had to use hydraulic machinery to free them.

Ben-Yitzhak, 52, was unconscious and pronounced dead shortly after medics arrived at the scene. His son was conscious and was airlifted by military helicopter to a local hospital, where his condition is described as stable.

It was a very difficult extraction, under very harsh conditions, because the aircraft itself was full of fuel, some of which even spilled onto the trapped father and son,” Netanya Fire and Rescue officer Danny Yosefsberg said.

Rescue teams said it was not immediately clear what caused the plane to nosedive into the ground, as described by witnesses. Transport Ministry accident investigators are currently looking into the matter.

Rise of 888

As one of four founders of 888 Holdings, Ben-Yitzhak was a pioneer of the online gaming industry.

The company, originally called Casino-on-Net, was formed in Gibraltar in 1997 by two sets of brothers, the Ben-Yitzhaks and the Shakeds.

Aaron Shaked, a dentist, reportedly came up with the idea for an online casino after attending a dentists’ conference in Monte Carlo, which happened to take place at the casino. He relayed the idea to his brother, Avi, but since neither knew anything about gambling, they approached their entrepreneur friends, Shay and Ron Ben-Yitzhak.

Less than a decade later, 888 raised $1 billion when it floated on the London Stock Exchange, and today is one of the biggest online gaming companies in the world.

Private Lives

Until 2006, Ben-Yitzhak was the company’s chief technology officer and oversaw its research and development center in Israel.

Afterwards, he took a non-executive position on the board and was the last of the four founders to play a role in running the company. He quit the board in 2010 to spend more time with his family.

888’s founders have been private people and eschewed the limelight, except for Avi Shaked, who twice ran for public office in Israel under the banner “proud socialist millionaire” and has widely campaigned for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

His brother, Aaron Shaked, passed away in 2010.

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