Publishers Ask Court to Liquidate Steimatzky: 'We Are Owed 7.5 Million Shekels’

Publishing houses object to bookstore chain’s demands for a 30% discount on debts and delayed payments.

Tomer Appelbaum

After not being paid for months, a number of publishers have asked a court to liquidate the Steimatzky bookstore chain – even though it seemed the sale of the chain by private equity fund Markstone Capital Group to Yafit Greenberg’s G. Group and the Korim publishing house had finally gone through.

The publishers have been asked by the financially troubled bookstore chain to take a 30% cut in the debts owed to them, along with spreading payments for the remaining debts over six months. A number of large publishers, including Yedioth Ahronoth Books, Keter Publishing and Kinneret Zmora-Bitan, have agreed to the new demands.

Among the group of publishers who joined together to file the petition are Modan Publishing, Am Oved and Opus Press, along with the Book Publishers Association of Israel and a number of smaller publishing houses who asked to remain anonymous, saying they feared that if their names were revealed Steimatzky would remove their books from its shelves. These publishers say Steimatzky owes them 7.5 million shekels, and asked the court to appoint a liquidator for the bookstore chain.

The publishers say Steimatzky’s demands for a discount on its debt and a drawn-out payment plan showed the chain was insolvent and could not meet its obligations. As a result it was carrying out separate debt agreements with different creditors, and is illegally giving precedence to certain creditors over others.

On Monday, Steimatzky’s CEO Iris Barel announced she was leaving within a month, even though at the time of the chain’s sale she said she would be staying on. As part of the sale arrangement, Barel will receive a $1-million bonus.

The new owners of Steimatzky said they had yet to receive the petition for liquidation, and when they do they would reply in court. Their lawyer later called it a futile request motivated by non-germane interests and claiming debts that are contested.