Dr. Zerem
Dr. Zerema7.org

Israel's Ophir Optronics, which makes infrared optics, optics for lasers, and advanced measurement equipment, is being acquired by the Newport Corporation of California. Newport is set to pay $230 million for Jerusalem based Ophir, the company said Monday.

Ophir's story starts in 1976, when it was established by Dr. Ya'akov Zerem and two partners, in a small room at Machon Lev (known today as the Jerusalem College of Technology). Ophir was the first company started in the framework of the College, and it concentrated on developing precision IR optics, laser measurement instrumentation and 3D non-contact measurement equipment.

In 2003, Ophir established its Massachusetts-based subsidiary, Ophir Optics LLC., that develops, manufactures and markets optic products to the US market. In 2006, Ophir acquired Spiricon Group, a Utah-based company and a leader in the laser beam profiling market. During 2007, Ophir established a Swiss-based subsidiary (Ophir Optics Europe GmbH) to market IR optics for surveillance and imaging systems in Europe. In May 2010, Ophir acquired Photon Inc., of California, to consolidate its leadership in the laser beam profiling market.

Over the years the company grew, to the point that between 2004 and 2009, sales increased sharply to $102 million from $45 million. In 2010, sales of laser measurement instrumentation grew at an impressive rate of 30.3% compared to 2009, reaching $33.2 million. The company eventually expanded and relocated to the Har Hotzvim hi-tech industrial area – but its heart remained in Machon Lev, with the vast majority of developers working at the company having studied there. Today, Ophir Optronics is one of the top companies in its field, employing 600 people – two thirds of whom live in the city.

Besides his work at Ophir – for which he will receive $24 million in the Newport buyout – Dr. Zerem was also for many years, including prior to the establishment of the company, a senior lecturer in electro-optical engineering at Machon Lev. Today, Dr. Zerem is a member of the board of directors of the JCT.