Collapsing Israeli Newspaper Maariv Seeks Court Protection

Paper owes NIS 120 million, expected to sell its website and purchase most of its content from Makor Rishon.

Nati Toker
Nati Tucker
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Nati Toker
Nati Tucker

The controlling owner of Maariv newspaper petitioned the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday for bankruptcy protection.

Shlomo Ben-Zvi, the controlling owner of Maariv and Makor Rishon, made a commitment in the petition to inject 2 million shekels ($575,000) through his family and to cover all the embattled newspaper’s debts through a creditor agreement. Maariv owes its employees 10.4 million shekels out of a total of 34.8 million to external bodies. The company owes an additional 95.3 million shekels to Ben-Zvi or his relatives.

His main goal is to cut significantly Maariv’s editorial staff and buy most of its journalistic content from Makor Rishon and other outside sources. Such a move would save NIS 1.9 million in employee salaries, according to Ben-Zvi’s recovery plan, which will require laying off an estimated 100-130 workers.

Ben-Zvi needs court involvement in order to carry out the layoffs. When he acquired control of Maariv through the court a year and a half ago he committed to hiring 375 workers in the first stage and in a later agreement to employ 200 people, with whom he signed a collective bargaining agreement. Only the court can allow him to shirk these obligations.

The plan also involves ceasing to publish the newspaper’s morning addition, leaving only the evening freebie, and selling off the NRG website. NRG employees were set to meet Wednesday, with expectations that Ben-Zvi’s people will inform them about closing the site and firing the workers.

Maariv’s journalist union met Wednesday morning with lawyers of the Histadrut’s Journalists Association to respond to the surprise move.

“It is too early to say what will be the exact repercussions of this move on all of us,” the union announced Wednesday. “Over the last two weeks, with the rumors growing of economic crisis and freelancers not receiving their salaries, the union and the Journalists Association began preparing for such a scenario.”

The union called on management to act responsibly and in cooperation with Maariv’s “dedicated workers.”

Maariv employees during one of their many recent protests.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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