United Mizrahi Bank chair Idan Ofer is expected to resign at the end of the month, according to an agreement with the Bank of Israel's Supervisor of Banks Yitzhak Tal, who is opposed in principle to controlling shareholders serving as chairman of the boards of directors of medium-sized banks.
A year ago, a serious dispute erupted between the Ofer and Wertheim families, controlling shareholders in Mizrahi, concerning appointment of the chair. At the close of Avi Wertheim's three-year term in the position, the Ofer family sought to appoint his replacement. The Ofers named a series of candidates, all of whom were rejected by the Wertheims. It was eventually decided, with Tal's assent, that Idan Ofer would fill the position for a limited, nine-month period.
The nine months ended in November 2002, and the bank's controlling shareholders sought permission to extend it for another three months as they attempted to sell control of the bank to insurance company Migdal. Tal conceded.
Apparently, Ofer is not interested in continuing in the position and will not request another extension, so the Ofer family will search for a replacement. Idan Ofer's spokesman refused to comment on the report.
Sources close to the controlling shareholders believe that the power struggle will not resume and the parties will reach an understanding. Apparently the families' common interest in preserving the stability of Mizrahi Bank, which posted the best business results in the sector this year, will overcome their fundamental differences of opinion. The Ofer group continues negotiations with Migdal, although on a back burner as Migdal's controlling shareholder, Italian insurance giant Generali, has still not given Migdal the green light to make a deal.
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