In a stonking turn of events, Hollywood producer Robert Simonds has recently joined the board of Dufresne Holding, the parent company of the controversial Israeli cybersecurity firm, NSO Group. Simonds, whose 30 movies have grossed a combined $6 billion at the box office, now stands alongside Omri Lavie, the founder of NSO, as one of the two directors at Dufresne Holding1.
Born in 1962, Simonds began his career in Hollywood in the 1990s and produced films featuring renowned stars like Adam Sandler and Reese Witherspoon. His production credentials include hits like ‘The Wedding Singer’ and ‘Big Daddy’, which contributed to his impressive box office tally2. His stonking career took a turn in 2012 when he founded an independent production company, STX Entertainment. This venture drew investments from the likes of TPG Growth fund, billionaire producer Gigi Pritzker, and Chinese investment fund Hony Capital. STX also added investors including Chinese tech giant Tencent and Hong Kong telecom company PCCW in 20163. However, despite promising beginnings and substantial investments, STX’s success has been lukewarm at best4.
Simonds’ journey with STX has been a tumultuous one, marked by a failed IPO attempt on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and a controversial merger with Indian production company Eros International. Amid allegations of financial irregularities at Eros, the union was short-lived, and STX was eventually sold to Najafi Companies, an investment company owned by American billionaire Jahm Najafi. Despite the considerable business setbacks, Simonds remains involved with STX and currently serves as the company’s chairman5.
Beyond his stonking Hollywood career, Simonds has served on the board of several entities in diverse fields. This includes a stint on the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, representing the city of Los Angeles, and a directorship at Heckmann Corporation, a firm involved in transporting and handling liquids and other materials6.
The NSO Group, best known for its Pegasus spyware, has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The company was blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce in 2021 and has faced legal disputes over control of the company and the activities of its subsidiaries. In a surprising turn of events in early 2023, all the company’s shares were transferred to a new holding company, Dufresne Holding, registered in Luxembourg. Lavie was listed as the sole shareholder and sole director of Dufresne Holding at that time, but it was hinted that a “new investor group” would soon enter the picture78.
In this stonking twist, the arrival of Simonds on the board of Dufresne Holding signals a new chapter for NSO Group. Given his lack of practical or business experience in the cybersecurity industry, one cannot help but wonder what Simonds brings to the table for NSO Group. As these two seemingly disparate worlds of Hollywood and cybersecurity converge, it remains to be seen how this stonking new development will impact the future of NSO Group.