The quality of the investor group that swooped down yesterday on a 10 percent stake in Bank Leumi will only become apparent after the Bank of Israel carries out its checkup in the coming months.
Meanwhile, it is hard not to be impressed by the hysterical reactions these investors have aroused in the international and local banking and business milieus.
But, above all, one hears the whispers of those most frightened by the unknown. The fear in the bank itself is understandable. A new, and unfamiliar, broom at a bank that up until now was run by its managers, is certainly cause for worry.
The winner of the tender was not old faithful Nochi Dankner, who borrowed from Leumi to buy Hapoalim, and it wasn't diamond baron Lev Leviev, who partnered Leumi in the Paz deal. It wasn't the Ofer family, Leumi's partners in The Israel Corp. No, it was Cerberus-Gabriel, the ones with whom we've never had the pleasure. No one's lent them money, no one's sold them a company and no one's bought anything off them.
In the Israeli economy, there are 20 heavyweights who deal, lend and borrow among themselves, closing major deals within two or three offices in downtown Tel Aviv. When a new boy arrives, unknown, apparently the connections and the mutual background don't carry the same weight.
By any measure, the entry of newcomers is good news. They are bound to no one, they should practice without ulterior motives, and they won't be borrowing from Discount to buy Leumi. Their conflicts of interest - if they have any - will be far less troublesome than those of Danker, Leviev or any other Israeli tycoon.
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