Debts Threaten to Put Israeli Tycoon's Home Into Hands of Receivers

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"The noise in the newspapers over the crisis with Bank Hapoalim is taking a huge toll on my quality of life," real estate mogul Moti Zisser has been heard complaining lately.

Zisser's quality of life is indeed in trouble. The developer who grew up in a simple home in Bnei Brak and taught high school for years before making it big in business has a crisis on his hands. He can't pay off NIS 1 billion in private debt to Bank Hapoalim, and his public company, Elbit Imaging, can't pay the NIS 2.5 billion it owes banks and bondholders.

Hapoalim is trying to put Zisser's assets into receivership and collect its money through other means. Zisser, as it turns out, has quite a few assets, and he may  have a hard time giving up the standard of living to which he is accustomed.

Over the past three years Zisser has drawn about NIS 108 million in management fees from Elbit Imaging to his privately-held company, Europa-Israel. He may be whining that his quality of life is suffering, but anyone visiting his luxurious estate at 49 Yad Labanim Street in Petah Tikva would find this hard to believe.

Zisser's home, said to be one of the priciest in Israel, is impressive by any standard. The opulent 3,000-square-meter house, which stands on an 8-dunam (2-acre) lot and is protected by security guards, has a bowling alley, pool tables, video arcade and movie theater, as well as a 30-meter swimming pool and its own synagogue and mikveh (Jewish ritual purification bath).

The house, which Zisser and his family moved into three years ago, took three years to build and cost, according to bankers' estimates, between NIS 45 million and NIS 55 million.

If the house does go up for sale, Bank Hapoalim will have to stand in line: Most of the estate is mortgaged to Bank Leumi; Hapoalim must settle for whatever crumbs are left.

While the private assets of big-time borrowers are usually beyond the reach of banks, Zisser may be unusually exposed: Looking to save on taxes, he registered the property under the name of Control Centers, another of his companies.

Friends say they warned Zisser that the house was too ostentatious, but he doesn't listen. "He believed everything written about him in the papers," one said, adding, "It may be a very expensive house, but it's hard to see many jumping to buy it. People might worry that the house could bring them bad luck."

According to papers filed with Tel Aviv District Court late last week in an effort to block Hapoalim's request to place 48.4% of Elbit Imaging shares into receivership, Zisser also owns three townhouses at 2 Ro'ay Tzon St. in Jerusalem's Alrov Mamilla Quarter. They were purchased several years ago, in part with a mortgage from Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, and are registered under Control Centers.

In his glory days, Zisser flew around the world in his private jet, a Bombardier Challenger 604 owned by Freedom Aviation Services, a Control Centers company. In the event of default, the leasing group of Swiss bank UBS has first dibs on the plane.

Moti Zisser's home in Petah Tikva.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Moti ZisserCredit: Dror Artzi

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