The Last Thing Arcadi Needs: Nimrodi's Shoes

It's easy to speculate why Arcadi Gaydamak wanted to buy a controlling interest in a major media group like Maariv.

Everywhere in the world, even the richest and most powerful are doubly cautious when dealing with the great media barons. The love of the hoi polloi is the source of power in politics, and the media is perceived as guiding and arousing the public's sentiment. Persons in the public domain who the media like, are usually safe from public criticism. But arousing the wrath of the media barons is to risk exposure to hostile press, which could cost a person his job and status.

Gaydamak is suspected of serious financial crimes in Israel and abroad. Many wonder what the source of his wealth is. But he scatters millions upon the waters of the needy and makes sure that his good deeds are published far and wide. He buys "businesses" such as soccer teams and radio stations, whose profit is mainly good public relations.

But the Hanukah party he threw last week shows that Gaydamak has not managed to buy himself respect.

None of the politicians or public personalities he invited dared to show themselves by his side. And it's probable that even becoming a partner in the second-biggest newspaper in Israel wouldn't change the status of this peculiar billionaire.

Look at the history of Gaydamak's partners in his negotiations to buy a stake in Maariv's parent company, Israel Land Development Corporation (TASE: ILDC) - the Nimrodis.

One of the reasons the Nimrodis themselves bought Maariv in the first place was to gain influence, and to sanitize the reputation of family patriarch Jackob Nimrodi as a "gun runner" involved in dubious dealings. Buying Maariv cast the spotlight on son Ofer Nimrodi, a dynamic, talented young man, graduate of a prestigious business school and completely clean of any connection to arms dealings.

But Nimrodi the son came a cropper in the publishing business, after the eavesdropping scandal, and witness tampering. His public standing could not save him from time in prison and disgrace.

As publishers and public persons, the Nimrodis were wide open to a massive media attack, led by arch-rival Yedioth Ahronoth. The media coverage of their crimes and business troubles was several times greater than it would be of some common criminal who had done similar things.

The Nimrodis seem to have learned the lesson, and have no special interest in keeping their stock in Maariv. The last thing Arcadi Gaydamak needs is to enter their shoes.