The Russian spy ring case that dominated headlines this week now has at least one Jewish connection.
The Daily News reports that 28-year-old Anna Chapman, one of the supposed spooks busted this week by the FBI, was dating a divorced New Jersey businessman “with deep pockets and influential friends” — and a Jewish backstory.
Michel Bittan, according to the News, “grew up in a poor Jewish family in Casablanca, moved to France and then to Israel before making his fortune in America.” During his years in Tel Aviv, “he got his start in the service industry as a busboy at the Hilton. Flash forward thirty years, and Bittan was making millions as a partner for Guess? Jeans and investing heavily in the real estate market down South,” Englewood Style magazine gushed in a 2009 profile.
Englewood, where Bittan eventually settled with his family, is home to two restaurants he owns, Solaia and 201 Supper Club. Bittan also owned Café B, a now-defunct Upper East Side beautiful-people spot. A local real-estate company also bears his name.
While Bittan’s laid low since the news broke, he had hardly maintained a low profile; a search online finds his name on a multitude of press releases. The Record newspaper in New Jersey reported that Bittan hosted a fundraiser for Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, D-Englewood, at his home last year that was attended by then-Governor Jon Corzine. Mayor Joseph Parisi of Englewood Cliffs told the paper he had attended several functions at Bittan’s house, including the Huttle fundraiser, but added, “I don’t know much about his personal life.”
An unnamed friend of Bittan’s was a little more forthright. “I didn’t think it was exclusive on his part — he really loves hot women — but she enjoyed hanging with him,” the friend told the Daily News. “He moves in circles, knows celebrity chefs, meets politicians…He’s a very wealthy and successful guy…He’s a nice, cool, family oriented man who loves women.” Bittan’s Facebook page — where his “friends” mostly include comely young women — seems to bear that out.