888 Co-Founder and CTO Dies in Airplane Crash

Shay Ben-Yitzhak the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of 888 Holdings, one of the world’s largest gaming companies, died in the crash. Ben-Yitzhak was one of four founders of the 888 brand back in 1997, the venture was founded by two sets of brothers the Ben-Yitzhaks and Shakeds.

Small airplane.

Shay Ben-Yitzhak the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of 888 Holdings, one of the world’s largest gaming companies, died in a tragic air accident whilst piloting a light aircraft with his young son on board. ©stokpic/Pixabay

Traveling with his 14-year-old son, he was piloting the light aircraft on Saturday over Sharon in Israel. The incident unfolded shortly after the plane had taken off, and local reports state that a small plane was seen nose-diving back to the ground just after wheels up. The 14 year old boy is reported to be in a stable condition and is receiving medical treatment.

Local firefighters were quickly swarming the scene after the crash, and they arrived on sight quickly launching a rescue operation for survivors. The Netanya Fire and Rescue Department had to work extremely hard to save the 14-year-old boy, as the plane’s fuel had spilled around the crash site and to the risk factor for all those involved.

After Shay Ben-Yitzhak was pronounced dead, and his son was in the care of medical professionals at a local hospital, the firefighter on the scene told reporters,

It was a very difficult extraction, under very harsh conditions, because the aircraft itself was full of fuel, some of which even spilled onto the trapped father and son.Danny Yosefsburg, Netanya Fire and Rescue Officer, Israel Fire Service

Unfortunately, the crews did not get to Shay Ben-Yitzhak in time and he had passed away when the crews broke into the mangled cockpit. But in what is being described as a miracle, the young boy was still alive in the crashed plane, and was quickly airlifted to hospital after sustained serious injuries. Airplane crash investigators in Israel are looking into the causes of the accident, and the most prevalent theory being backed by eyewitnesses is the plane took off then just seconds later nose-dived.

Shay Ben-Yitzhak and the Rise of 888 Holdings

One of the four original founders of 888, Ben-Yitzhak along with his brother, and the two Shaked brothers would form the 888 Holdings group which is now considered one of the largest gaming companies in the world.

A technical expert, mathematician, and engineer, Shay Ben-Yitzhak was a highly-skilled software engineer responsible for building the first systems and platform leveraged by the company. After expanding his team of information technology experts in the late 90’s the newly-founded online gaming company – going by the name Casino-On-Net back then – quickly expanded in several verticals, including poker, casino and sports betting.

After relinquishing most of the financing, accounting and business management responsibilities of the company over to his other co-founders Ben-Yitzhak was charged and fully responsible for the implementation of building out the web application and enabling them to go live with the products lined up. His technical expertise combined with his passion for gaming enabled the firm to develop a superior user-friendly product. The subsequent creations of Shay Ben-Yitzhak resonated superbly with their first users, and allowed the firm to keep expanding and gain a foothold in the global online gaming markets.

The entrepreneur’s early vision quickly manifested into a successful global gaming company, and within less than 10 years since they opened up shop 888 Holdings floated on the London Stock Exchange raising over $1bn.

A Private Man Who Loved His Family

From the beginning of the company in 1997 all the way through to the initial public offering in 2006, Shay Ben-Yitzhak held the position of Chief Technology Officer in 888. It was his job to oversee new research and development needs in Israel. Ben-Yitzhak was known for his hands-on approach in business, successfully developing new processes to trial products he had in the pipeline. Ben-Yitzhak was also a masterful engineer and would dedicate huge portions of his time to working on code, fixing run-time errors and managing large sections of the whole companies operational security.

But in reality, despite his love and obsession with software engineering, Shay Ben-Yitzhak was a family orientated person and preferred to live life without the pressure of shareholder responsibility and performance pressures.

Following the United States legislative decision to effectively ban online gambling, 888 was knocked back in a massive way. The company depended heavily on the emerging markets in the United States and began to lose a lot of its personnel as they sensed a sinking ship. By 2006 he was the last of the four original founders still at the company, taking on a non-executive position on the board and withdrawing himself from the day-to-day running of the company. In 2010, he quit the board and finally left the company he had founded after 13 years. Since then the company has gone onto dominate the global iGaming market, making a series of strategic moves, including the acquisition of BetBright for £15m.

Shay Ben-Yitzhak wanted to spend more time with his family, already an extremely wealthy man he planned to spend the rest of his life enjoying the company of his wife and son. But unfortunately, this tragic accident has cut his plans short, but his legacy in online gambling and 888 will live on for decades to come.

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