The court-appointed trustee of Makor Rishon, a religious, right-leaning weekly newspaper, yesterday recommended that the newspaper and its sister news website NRG be sold to the owner of Israel Hayom, Sheldon Adelson, for 17 million shekels ($4.8 million).
Adelson, an American Jewish gambling magnate, had submitted the highest bid.
The two properties have been part of Shlomo Ben-Tzvi’s ailing media empire, which also includes the Maariv daily newspaper.
Israel Hayom is believed to have offered 10 million to 12 million shekels ($2.9 million to $3.4 million) for Makor Rishon and several million shekels more for NRG, which up to now has been a news website associated with Maariv.
Since no separate proposals have been made to buy Maariv alone, the daily will likely be closed. However, the Makor Rishon trustee is seeking more time to find a buyer for the paper.
In addition to Israel Hayom, the bidders for Makor Rishon included The Jerusalem Post, which is owned by Eli Azur. Makor Rishon’s CEO, Udi Rajones, submitted a bid for the weekly in the name of Ben-Tzvi, and a fourth bid was made by Ashdir, an advertising firm and publisher of Shabbat handouts. The Jerusalem Post publisher Azur offered to buy all three properties, though he is reportedly only interested in Makor Rishon.
The fate of Makor Rishon, Maariv and NRG is now in the hands of the courts. Ben-Tzvi had owned Makor Rishon and bought Maariv and NRG out of bankruptcy, but the fate of the properties are all back in the hands of the court after Ben-Tzvi was unable to continue to sustain their operations.
A senior executive at Israel Hayom assured Makor Rishon’s staff that the giveaway daily that is seen as closely aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not interfere in its editorial independence.
Despite the assurances, sources at Israel Hayom suspect that the Makor Rishon staff will urge the court to reject Adelson’s bid on the assumption that the weekly would indeed have to adapt its line.
If Israel Hayom is given the nod, the acquisition will require approval from the antitrust commissioner.
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