Arcadi Gaydamak can't force Maadaney Mizra (Meat Delicacies) to stop producing pork products, fumes Yossi Amir, a member of the pig-producing kibbutz's economic board.
The Russian billionaire bought Tiv Taam as last week closed, and the supermarkets chain owns a controlling interest in Maadaney Mizra, which makes processed meat products. Although the deal hasn't been closed yet, Gaydamak promptly stated that Tiv Taam will stop selling pork products.
Tiv Taam bought its controlling interest in 50-year old company Maadaney Mizra from Kibbutz Mizra two years ago.
That prompted a clarification from Tiv Taam itself, which said that first its management and board have to consider the economic merits of Gaydamak's plan, and only then will the management and board decide whether to adopt it.
Maadaney Mizra has obtained a slew of quality certifications, including that of the United States Food and Drug Administration. Some 40% of its production is devoted to pork products, though it also makes turkey and beef products as well. About a third of its 200 product lines are sold via Tiv Taam.
That explains why Gaydamak's statement that Tiv Taam will stop selling "provocative" products sent shock waves through the kibbutz. Amir hereby states for the record that Mizra has no intention of retooling its production lines for kosher meats, as it were.
"It is not on the agenda, it can't be done, it would involve setting up an entirely new plant," Amir said. "The unique quality of Maadaney Mizra is that it targets a premium audience, not only Russian consumers. We can't start selling chickens."
He added however that the kibbutz doesn't really know what Tiv Taam's new owner means to do. "At first he said he'd take the pig away, then make it kosher and keep Shabbat. The Israel Securities Authority clarified that is not how things are done," Amir said, noting that Tiv Taam also has minority shareholders whose opinion counts.
Gaydamak can't just steamroll the Tiv Taam board of directors, even if he has 50% of the directors, and under its contract with Maadaney Mizra, Tiv Taam can't force it to change basics, such as the nature of its work, Amir says.
"The contract states that changes like that have to be made by consensus. He can't tell Maadaney Mizra not to produce pork. He can say that Tiv Taam, in which he owns 51%, won't market Maadaney Mizra products any more. it wouldn't be good, it wouldn't be simple, but remember this is a niche of 2 million consumers that is not going to disappear because Tiv Taam stops selling pork," Amir sums up.
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