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Lily Safra

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Full Name
Lily Watkins

Lily Safra

London, England

Lily Safra Publication of an unauthorized biography on the life of

30 December 1934 (age 80) (

Socialite, philantropist

Edmond Safra (m. 1976–1999)

Eduardo, Claudio, Adriana, Carlos

Similar People
Edmond Safra, Ira Rennert, Lady Colin Campbell, Mukesh Ambani

Net worth
1.29 billion USD (2015)

Lily Safra

Lily Safra (née Watkins, born 30 December 1934) is a Brazilian philanthropist and socialite who attained considerable wealth through her four marriages. By March 2013, her net worth was estimated at $1.2 billion according to Forbes,. Safra has a significant art collection and owns the historic Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera.


Lily Safra Publication of an unauthorized biography on the life of


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Safra was born Lily Watkins on December 30, 1934, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, daughter of Wolf White Watkins, a Czechoslovak railway engineer who moved to South America, and Annita Noudelman de Castro, a Uruguayan of Russian-Jewish ancestry. She grew up in Rio de Janeiro but moved with her family to Uruguay.

Lily Safra Lily Safra Pictures Photos amp Images Zimbio

At the age of 17, she met and married Mario Cohen, an Argentine hosiery magnate of Italian-Jewish descent. They had three children. Lily and Cohen divorced in the early 1960s.

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In 1965, she married Alfredo "Freddy" Monteverde, (formerly Greenberg.) He was a Romanian Jewish immigrant who was forced to flee Europe in 1939. He was a leader in the Brazilian household appliance distribution business, where he established the Ponto Frio brand. He and Lily adopted a child. In 1969, Monteverde committed suicide. According to biographer Isabel Vincent, Monteverde left all his assets to his wife.

Lily Safra Lily Safra

One month after her husband's death, Lily Monteverde moved to London. Her late husband's banker, Edmond Safra, helped her secure control over her late spouse's entire fortune. She dated Safra for some time but the romance ended. Her family, who is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, did not approve of her relationship with Safra, who was of Sephardic Jewish descent.

Lily Safra Safra

In 1972, Monteverde married businessman Samuel Bendahan, also a Sephardic Jew. They separated after two weeks, and she divorced him after one year of marriage.

In 1976, Monteverde married Edmond Safra after all. The prominent banker was of Jewish Lebanese (Mizrahi) origin and a naturalized Brazilian citizen. He founded Republic National Bank of New York. The couple divided their time among homes in New York City, Monaco, Geneva, and the Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera.

Safra was killed in Monaco in a fire that was determined to be arson. His death attracted considerable media interest because of his wealth and position. Edmond Safra "apparently felt so safe here that he did not have his bodyguards stay the night when he slept in Monaco".

Ted Maher, a former Green Beret who was Safra's bodyguard and nurse, was accused of starting the fire. His lawyer, Michael Griffith, has said that Maher started the fire in order to gain acceptance from Safra and that "It was a stupid, most insane thing a human being could do,” says Griffith. “He did not intend to kill Mr. Safra. He just wanted Mr. Safra to appreciate him more. He loved Mr. Safra. This was the best job of his life.” Maher was convicted and sentenced to eight years in jail. The case is considered controversial as, after his 8-year imprisonment, Maher has maintained his innocence.

Safra left 50% of his assets to several charities, with the remainder divided among his family members and wife Lily, who received $800 million.

Philanthropy and art collection

Lily Safra supports numerous foundations, organizations, and charities. In 1977 she, her husband Edmond Safra, and Nina Weiner founded the International Sephardic Education Foundation. She chairs The Edmond J. Safra Foundation which supports medical research and humanitarian relief. The Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics has been established at Harvard; most recently she donated over $12 million to create a cross-disciplinary research laboratory on institutional corruption.

Safra supports the American Red Cross and helped the Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005; she is on the board of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research, and is a member of the Chairman's Council of the Museum of Modern Art. Through the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, she helped found the Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities at the University of Haifa. The Foundation and Mrs. Safra also helped create the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University.

Safra ensured the completion of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue in Manhattan.

In connection with the 2005 sale at Sotheby's of furniture and art from her collection, Safra donated $3 million to charities in New York which she and her husband had supported for many years, along with a gift to Dillard University in New Orleans to help them rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Sotheby's announced in 2011 that an auction of Mr. and Mrs. Safra's collections, including furniture, artwork, silverware, and decorative objects, took place in New York City.

In 2009, Safra was honored by the Elton John AIDS Foundation with its “An Enduring Vision” award for her long-time support. In October 2013, Safra donated $1 million in support of the foundation's grant-making programs. That same year, Safra contributed $16 million toward Edmond and Lily Safra Children's Hospital in Tel Hashomer. She also donated $5 million toward the One Laptop Per Child project.

She established the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge, for patients battling illnesses, as well as their families, at the National Institutes of Health near Washington D.C.

In July 2010, Safra donated 8 million euros to the Institute for Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries in Paris.

In the same year, she promised the Claude Pompidou Foundation a donation of 7 million euros for the construction and completion of the Claude Pompidou Institute for Alzheimer’s research and treatment in the city of Nice, France. The Institute was inaugurated and welcomed its first patients in 2014.

Safra is a Patron of Hope and Homes for Children in the UK and a supporter of its work for children in Romania

L'Homme qui marche I, a life-sized bronze sculpture of a man, was acquired by Safra. She bought it at Sotheby's auction in London for £65 million (US$104.3 million) on 3 February 2010, resulting in it becoming one of the most expensive works of art and the most expensive sculpture ever purchased.

In May 2012, Christie's Geneva hosted an auction of 70 pieces of Safra’s personal jewelry collection. The 'Jewels for Hope' sale included 18 pieces by JAR, the largest personal collection designed by the jeweler ever to be sold. The entire profits from the sale were donated to 32 charitable institutions around the world in the fields of healthcare, education, religion and culture, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Hope and Homes for Children in Romania.

Empress Bianca

Lady Colin Campbell's novel Empress Bianca (2005) was considered to be defamatory by Safra's solicitor Anthony Julius. Reacting to the legal threat in the United Kingdom, its publishers Arcadia withdrew the book and destroyed unsold copies. A revised edition of the book was later published in the United States.


  • Legion d'honneur, Officier (2011)
  • King's College London, Honorary Fellow
  • Honorary chair, International Sephardic Education Foundation.
  • Honorary Doctorate from Haifa University
  • Courtauld Institute of Art, Honorary Fellow
  • Honorary Doctorate from Imperial College London
  • Honorary Doctorate from Brandeis University
  • References

    Lily Safra Wikipedia