Better Place Sale Fizzles as Latest Buyer Misses Deadline

Court nixes acquisition by Tzachi Merkur's EV Net Group after it fails to meet the deadline for the first down-payment.

The sale of the electric-car infrastructure company Better Place stalled yesterday after a potential buyer missed the deadline for the first payment. It was the second time a deal to purchase the company has gone sour in two months,

Lod District Court Judge Ilan Shiloh voided the sale of the bankrupt company’s operations after Tzachi Merkur’s EV Net Group failed to meet the court’s September 30 deadline to pay NIS 1.8 million, 20% of the purchase price. EV Net gave the receivers of the company a check for $508,000 drawn on a foreign bank and postdated for two months from now, which failed to meet the terms of the agreement.

“All the buyer did was to produce an anonymous check, in foreign currency, from a foreign bank account, despite being clearly told the payments could not be made this way,” the receivers, attorneys Shaul Kotler and Sigal Rozen-Rechav, told the court.

Merkur’s Success Assets, a parking garage and property management company, agreed to pay NIS 11 million for Better Place after Yosef Abramowitz's Green EV and a consortium of owners of Better Place cars failed in August to come up with the NIS 18 million they had offered for the company. The court then offered Better Place to Merkur.

The receivers told the court that in the absence of a new potential buyer for all of Better Place's operations, they will suspend the operation of the battery recharging stations and will try to sell off the business. They said they would also demand that Merkur return the proceeds from the sale of Better Place office equipment, carried out in the month during which he managed the company.

Founded amid much fanfare by Shai Agassi in 2007, Better Place collapsed under the weight of huge costs and tiny revenues as it was rolling out a global network of electric car-recharging and battery-replacement stations, adapted for a specially designed Renault electric car. Agassi was ousted last year and the company filed months later for bankruptcy. It has 50 employees, down from a peak of 600.

The monthly operating cost of Better Place’s charging stations is estimated at about NIS 100,000 each, and their availability is indispensable to owners of the electric cars the company has sold.

In the absence of charging stations, the cars can only be driven 100 kilometers before requiring a long-term charge. It was not clear at the time of this report whether car owners' home charging stations will continue to work. Several entrepreneurs have contacted Better Place customers and offered to install new charging stations for them.

Tomer Appelbaum