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The Yedioth Ahronoth group has recently distributed a NIS 200 million dividend, Ha'aretz has learned. The Yedioth group is owned primarily by Eliezer Fishman, the publisher of Globes financial paper, and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's most-highly circulated daily. In addition to this daily paper, the Yedioth group controls the Golden Channels cable television company, several local weeklies, real estate and other assets.

The dividend is designed to help the shareholders repay the loans they took in November 2000, when they bought all of Oded Mozes' shares (27 percent of the ordinary shares and 21.5 percent of the founders' shares) in a $205 million deal, as well as 4.5 percent of the stock held by Mimi Mozes in return for $35 million.

The main beneficiary of this dividend will be Eliezer Fishman, who - together with Edna Bar-On, the widow of Haim Bar-On, Fishman's partner in Globes - will be getting 38 percent of the dividend. However, since the deal put Fishman-Bar-On's holding in Yedioth at more than 25 percent - which under the antitrust law makes this a merger with the duo's other company, Globes - the surplus was turned over to a trustee, attorney Yisrael Kantor. Fishman and Bar-On are arguing that since they have separated their holdings in Yedioth, the latter should not be considered as merged with Globes.

Antitrust Commissioner Dror Strum differs with them; and until the issue is resolved, Kantor will continue to hold the surplus shares in trust. The trust instrument indicates that in order to acquire the stock, Fishman took out a loan from Bank Hapoalim and the that the dividend will be used to repay the loan.