Stella Handler Tapped as Bezeq CEO

But the appointment could be scuttled by demands for a cooling-off period for Handler, who left rival HOT only two weeks ago.

Stella Handler, who just resigned as chair of HOT, is expected to be appointed the new CEO of its competitor, Bezeq. She would replace Avi Gabay, who announced his resignation on Sunday. Handler is thought to be the candidate preferred by Shaul Elovitz, who holds the controlling interest in Bezeq. However, the appointment could be held up if Patrick Drahi, who holds the controlling interest in HOT, demands that Handler adhere to a cooling-off period before switching to a rival company.

Two weeks ago Handler announced she was leaving her position as chair of HOT, Bezeq’s major competitor. Sources close to Elovitz say the appointment will be made only after Drahi’s agreement is obtained and it is ensured that the sides will not get into legal battles over Handler’s cooling-off period.

Elovitz informed TheMarker: “Subsequent to the publication this morning of the report that supposedly a replacement has been chosen for Avi Gabay, I would like to make it unambiguously clear that this has not been decided. The stage of examining and evaluating candidates is underway. Once the suitable candidate is decided upon, he will be brought before the board of directors for approval. We request that rumors and speculations on the matter be treated with caution.

In 2007 Handler led the merger of 012  Golden Lines with Smile Communications on Elovitz’s behalf. She was also involved in the deal in which Elovitz bought control of Bezeq in 2009. In any case it is not expected that Elovitz will relinquish his position as chairman of the group.

After four years of stability Bezeq, the largest communications company in the country, is experiencing an organizational and personnel  shakeup.  On Sunday Bezeq CEO Avi Gabay announced his intention of resigning. Gabay has been leading Bezeq since July 2007, when he replaced the previous CEO Yacov Gelbard, who was forced to leave after becoming embroiled in a stock option scandal. Gabay is expected to leave the group within half a year, after an orderly management transition.

“After more than 14 years in the Bezeq group and nearly six years as CEO, I feel it is the time for me to make a change,” Gabay said.

 Shaul Elovitz, who holds the controlling interest, has told TheMarker: “Avi has managed Bezeq during an extraordinarily complex and challenging period and has led operating and financial achievements unparalleled in telecom companies in Israel and abroad.”

Even before Gabay’s announcement, which surprised many in the company and elsewhere, speculation had begun concerning the expected changes at the top of Bezeq. However, sources close to Elovitz note that the issue of the resignation came up in conversations between Gabay and Elovitz only in recent weeks.

Bloomberg