Harry Recanati was born in Salónica, Greece, in 1919, to Leon Recanti and Matilde Saporta. The Recanati family was of Italian origin, the Saporta of Spanish, both well known, honourable families.

Following extensive studies, Harry Recanati joined in 1937 the Palestine Discount Bank Ltd., Tel-Aviv, a modest bank founded by his father in 1935. Unfortunately, Leon Recanati died suddenly in 1945 aged 55 and Harry, his eldest son, 26 years old, was appointed Managing Director. The bank’s total assets at the time amounted to roughly 1.100.000 pounds. Harry’s management of the Israel Discount Bank Ltd. (“Palestine” having been replaced by “Israel” at the creation of the State of Israel) proved successful and, by the end of 1952, the bank had become the second largest in Israel. In this seven years period, the capital was increased considerably, over forty branches were established, two local middle-sized banks were acquired and an important investment company was formed. Also, during that period, Harry invited his younger brother Daniel to join him in the bank. His third brother Raphael chose to make a career in shipping considering that banking was a parasitical activity.

In 1952 Harry Recanati moved his seat to Geneva, Switzerland, and from that base he created a network of affiliated banks in Switzerland itself, France, Uruguay, Peru and Chile, a group of eight private banks, Israel included, well managed by wealthy partners and profitable. In 1962 Ralli Brothers Ltd., London, an old established Merchant Bank, “founded before the French Revolution”, was purchased in partnership with Sir Isaac Wolfson’s Group. This acquisition brought up the number of affiliated banks to nine, not counting the extensive non-banking interests of the Ralli Company (commodities trading, department stores, industries, shipping, insurance, etc.)  in Europe, Africa, the Far East and North and South America. Due to this considerable expansion, Harry Recanati moved to London. Sometime thereafter his brother Raphael Recanati, who had settled in New York during the late forties, changed his mind about banking and, against his brother’s advice, established there a branch of the Israel Discount Bank Ltd.

In 1969 Harry decided to withdraw from the Group, his brothers insisting on having the shares of the Israel Discount Bank Ltd. quoted on the Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange. He was also worried about the overtrading going on in New York that escaped his supervision.   However, what irked Harry particularly was the abandon by his brothers of the basic principle established by their father that the Bank ought to always remain under Sepharadi ownership, in order to provide, primarily, banking facilities to the Sepharadi community in the country, where none existed until the foundation of the Palestine Discount Bank in 1935. This separation was consummated in 1970. Being a very private person, Harry refused to be involved with a public company; also, he saw no valid reason to dilute the family’s interest in a Group that was doing fine and that was enjoying an excellent reputation internationally.

Following the separation, Harry purchased two modest banks from his brothers, one in Switzerland: Ralli Brothers (Bankers) S.A. and another in France: Discount Bank (France) S.A. He was able to develop these two institutions quite successfully over a period of ten years, at which point he decided to retire and devote himself to non-business activities, i.e. art, his hobby, besides music and history. As a matter of fact, his art collection, started in 1952, had expanded considerably. Having no male heir, he sold his bank in Switzerland to the Security Pacific Bank of Los Angeles and his French one to the Cassa di Risparmio di Roma, quite successfully too. Thus ended Harry’s banking career.

As for his brothers, they kept expanding their interests on insufficient capital at a dizzying pace, so that in the early eighties the Israel Discount Bank faced insolvency due to Daniel and Raphael having engaged for years in highly improper trading in the bank’s shares. Following the refusal by his brothers to make good the huge losses incurred by the public, although they could do so, a panic ensued and, to prevent the collapse of the banking system, the Government of Israel was forced to intervene. The Israel Discount Bank was taken over by the Treasury, an exercise that involved an outlay of about two billion dollars, a huge sum for a small country, following which Raphael Recanati was expelled from the bank. Subsequently, he was sued by the State of Israel, in a much publicized Court case, for several criminal offences and condemned to jail and a fine. He did not serve the jail sentence due to his advanced age and his poor health. He died in 1999. His brother Daniel had died in 1985. Thus died also Leon Recanati's dream of a first-class private Sepharadi bank in Israel.

Note: The above write-up mentions the “Recanati brothers”, as some of the public in Israel still wrongly identify the Ralli Museums and Harry Recanati with his brothers, although they parted ways in 1970!

Regarding the activities of Harry Recanati in the cultural and charitable fields, please refer to Ralli Museums