Sheldon Adelson Expands Israeli Media Empire, Buys Makor Rishon and NRG

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Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Credit: AP

The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday approved right-wing multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson's purchase of Makor Rishon newspaper and news website NRG for 17 million shekels ($4.86 million). As Adelson also owns Israel Hayom, the country's most widely-distributed newspaper, the sale is subject to final approval by the Antitrust Authority.

Makor Rishon's court-appointed trustees proposed the deal because the newspaper's owner, Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, who also owns Maariv, has run up debts of 35 million shekels. The Jerusalem Post, owned by Eli Azur, lost out to Adelson in the bidding for the media properties.

According to the purchase deal, all of Makor Rishon's distribution staff, 95 percent of its editorial staff and 90% of its regular freelancers will stay on for at least 12 months. Five of the NRG's 17 employees will be offered jobs for 12 months, but without accumulated seniority.

And what will happen to Maariv? The newspaper's trustees are likely to continue publishing it in a truncated form, at the same as they search for a buyer.

Ben-Tzvi, in asking the court for a stay of bankruptcy proceedings against Maariv, pledged to continue publishing the paper – which the trustees demanded of him even if a buyer for Maariv was not found.

Adelson,one of the richests Jew in the world with an estimated worth of nearly $40 billion, is the most prominent backer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel Hayom reflects that bias. Adelson, who made his fortune in casinos, is also the Republican Party's No. 1 bankroller and kingmaker.