Alex Shnaider: From Young Immigrant to Global Businessman
Alex Shnaider, a global businessman with companies, homes, and investments around the world, didn’t start out with a life of luxury. The son of Soviet immigrants, he learned the value of hard work at an early age.
Born in Ukraine in 1968, Alex Shnaider’s family emigrated to Israel when he was four, then settled in Canada when he was 13.
His parents could not find work in their chosen professions – his father was an engineer and his mother a dentist – so they bought a delicatessen called Russian Caviar in Toronto. Like many immigrant families, everyone worked in the Shnaider delicatessen. Young Alex Shnaider swept the floors, stocked the shelves, talked to customers, worked evenings, weekends, and holidays. When he wasn’t at the deli, he delivered newspapers on his paper route.
If Alex Shnaider’s biography is to be written, it begins in Toronto when he gets bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at his parents’ store. Always a good student, with a mind for math and analysis, he knew he wanted to go into business.
He began studying economics at York University, but left school for a year to buy and sell cars. He returned to college and graduated with honors. Then he was off to Zurich, where he discovered the thrill of trading in steel. It was a turning point.
Facile with languages, and with the help of family contacts, he began brokering steel export deals after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He co-founded Midland Group in 1994, which specialized in strategic risk-taking, bartering, and supplying key materials that steel mills needed. Midland Group made its first steel mill investment in 1998, when with a partner, it privatized the Skopje Steel mill in Macedonia.
Midland Group’s growth came fast, and within 5 years, it had a controlling stake in Ukraine’s largest steel producer. Over the years, the company broadened its reach to include more steel mills in Eastern Europe, and later, other investments.
By 2005, Shnaider’s net worth had exceeded $1 billion, landing on Forbes’ list of the richest people before he was even 40.
But Alex Shnaider’s biography isn’t just a story of wealth. He’s a driven, ambitious man, who takes risks that others might avoid, but he also has integrity and a work ethic to be admired. As one business associate said of him at the time: “There is a big market in the former Soviet Union for integrity. You can make a lot of money with integrity because it’s scarce.”
More recently, Shnaider has invested in real estate and finance, with significant development projects in Israel, Canada and around the world. He is the majority owner of Mishorim Real Estate Investments, a public company traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that owns commercial real estate in Israel and the United States. Mishorim is also the controlling shareholder in Skyline Investments Inc., which operates resorts and hotels in Canada and the US.
Shnaider’s fortune has enabled him to pursue some of his lifelong hobbies. A collector of luxury cars, he paid $25 million in 2005 to buy the Jordan Formula One racing team. He rebranded it as Midland F1 Racing for the 2006 Formula One season, and sold it several years later, quadrupling his investment. He also briefly owned Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer team.
He also believes in giving back. He’s been involved in philanthropic efforts in Canada and around the globe, contributing both money and time to Jewish and healthcare organizations including the Sinai Health Foundation, the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation, the Sunnybrook Foundation, the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto, and more.
Married, with three adult daughters, Shnaider is also a family man. Despite his wealth and business successes, he does not live the flashy public life that typifies many of his peers. While he hired Justin Bieber to serenade one of his daughters at her Sweet 16, he also attended his own high school reunion in Toronto. “He’s actually quite normal,” said one of his boyhood friends.
Alex Shnaider’s biography is not yet complete. He continues to invest around the globe, and he’s committed as ever to making the world a better place. As he told an interviewer in 2012, his main goal for his daughters was that “they grow up to become good people who make positive contributions to society.”