Negotiations Underway to Sell Control of Channel 10 to Jewish Billionaire Len Blavatnik

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Channel 10 shareholders have offered a controlling stake in the company to Jewish billionaire Len Blavatnik, in a deal that might see billionaire Ronald Lauder sell part of his holdings in the channel.

Lauder injected NIS 130 million of his own money into the channel last year, but the company is still not achieving its business targets. Negotiations over a deal were held until a month ago with an outline that would have Blavatnik taking control of the company but Lauder retaining a minority stake. It is believed that the deal is still on the table.

A source stated that the under the proposed terms, Blavatnik will acquire shares from owners Lauder, Yossi Meiman and Arnon Milchan at no cost, in return for guaranteeing that he will provide the additional capital necessary to ensure the channel’s continued operation.

Channel 10 is currently in the midst of a deep financial crisis. Despite the large sums of money pumped into it by Lauder, the channel is expected to need at least an additional infusion of NIS 50 million to get through 2014 in the black.

The Ukrainian-born Blavatnik made his fortune around the time of the fall of the Soviet Union and lives today in Great Britain and the United States. He is the owner of Access Industries, which has a diversified portfolio that includes large holdings in natural resources and real estate.

Access Industries refused to comment for this article and representatives of Channel 10 shareholders failed to respond before press time.

Television industry sources stated that they believe the financial situation at Channel 10 could be improved dramatically if it differentiated itself from its major competitor Channel 2, which dominates the local TV market.

Blavatnik is already active in the Israeli media market through RGE, which he owns together with local businessman Aviv Giladi and the Recanati family. Some of RGE’s holdings include Israel’s popular Children’s Channel and the Sports channel. In 2010 he sought to purchase a controlling stake in Israel’s satellite television provider Yes and a pursued a separate deal to buy Channel 9, both of which failed. In 2008, Balavatnik entered negotiations to buy control of the newspaper Maariv, which also failed.

Blavatnik expanded his investments in Israel when he purchased Clal Industries and Investments from Israeli tycoon Nochi Dankner’s IDB Holding Corporation in 2012. In recent weeks, Blavatnik announced that he would delist Clal Industries from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Channel 10’s newsroom.Credit: Alon Ron
Ronald Lauder.Credit: Bloomberg News

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