Lev Leviev, the controlling shareholder of the financially troubled property-holding group Africa Israel Investments, doesn’t think too highly of Israeli banks, even though he doesn’t owe them any money.
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Africa Israel has more than 3 billion shekels ($790 million) in debt – all of it to bondholders – and is working on a second bailout with creditors. Last week auditors attached a “going concern” warning on his flagship company and Russian banks are threatening to seize his Russian assets.
Nevertheless, in a recorded conversation leaked over the week to Israel’s Channel 10 television, Leviev is heard to say some unkind things about Israeli lenders.
“I shit on every bank, but they haven’t been able to make me move a centimeter because I don’t owe any of them money, to no bank in the world. I piss on every bank from above, even Rakefet,” he said, apparently referring to Bank Leumi CEO Rakefet Russak-Aminoach.
The comments about Russak-Aminoach and Leumi are surprising because he was once a co-owner with the bank of Africa Israel before it sold him its 15.5% stake in 2006. In 2009, when Russak-Aminoach was head of Leumi’s business banking division, she helped Leviev in his first bailout for his privately held investment vehicle Memorand Management.
Sources close to Leviev said over the weekend that despite his remarks he remains on good terms with the banks. “Conversations between private individuals behind closed doors are exactly that – private,” a spokesman for Africa Israel said.