Eli Azur, the owner of the English-language Jerusalem Post and other media outlets, has beat out rivals such as Channel 13 to purchase the Walla Hebrew-language news website from Bezeq telecommunications.
In addition to the Jerusalem Post, Azur owns the Maariv daily, radio stations 103FM and Eco99, the Charlton sports channels and a billboard advertising firm. The purchase price for Walla was 65 million shekels ($19 million). Based on that price tag, this apparently makes the Walla purchase the biggest deal that Azur has ever done. He paid four million shekels for Maariv in 2014.
Bezeq has been trying to sell Walla, a wholly-owned subsidiary, for about two years. It was initially asking much more, but the lack of bidders forced it to lower its asking price.
Bezeq’s former controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, is currently standing trial, along with others including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for having allegedly ordered Walla to provide favorable news coverage to the prime minister in exchange for major government regulatory benefits.
Fifty-five million shekels of Azur’s bid was in cash. The remaining 10 million will be paid to Bezeq in the form of free advertising on the Walla website for a seven year period after the sale is completed.
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Azur’s takeover of Walla will likely have a significant impact on the website. He apparently hopes to create synergies with his other media operations, but it is not yet clear how he might integrate Walla into his existing Hebrew-language digital business, which is run under the Maariv brand.
Bezeq and Azur did not respond to requests for comment for this article.