River Island founder David Lewis dies at 87

David Lewis with Gerald Ronson, Ron Prosor and Lynn Schneider

David Lewis with Gerald Ronson, Ron Prosor and Lynn Schneider

The founder of one of Israel’s most prominent hotel chains and the clothing company River Island has died in London.

David Lewis, who set up Isrotel 30 years ago, was 87 and was diagnosed with cancer last year.

A successful businessman, he was credited with developing Eilat as a popular tourist resort after he opened the Isrotel King Solomon Hotel there in 1980.

There are now 12 Isrotel hotels and spas across the country, including the Carmel Spa near Haifa and the Isrotel tower in Tel Aviv.

Mr Lewis, who was awarded a CBE in 1995, was also a co-founder of the clothing chain Chelsea Girl (now River Island) and first opened a womenswear store in Hackney in 1948 with his three brothers. Both his parents were the children of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe

He made his mark on Israel following the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when he and his family set up a foundation to help rehabilitate IDF veterans. Mr Lewis himself served as a volunteer navigator for the RAF during the Second World War.

He was known for his philanthropy, supporting causes such as the Schneider Children's Hospital Medical Centre of Israel. He received the Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation Business Lifetime Achievement Award last year.

This year he marked 60 years of marriage with his wife Ruth. The couple had five children and 11 grandchildren.

At an event honouring Mr Lewis in October, the then Israeli ambassador to the UK Ron Prosor said: "David revolutionised Israeli tourism. Before him, the Red Sea was unchartered territory."

Lior Raviv, the current chief executive of Isrotel, paid tribute to him as "an example of Zionism, pioneering, courage, vision, imagination, and concern for the state of Israel".

"He was an inspiration for all of us," said Mr Raviv.

Last updated: 2:29pm, August 9 2011