New Owner Poised to Take Over Maariv as Revamp Begins

Shlomo Ben-Zvi has announced from the start that he would lay off staff, although he will rehire many of them.

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Nati Tucker

Shlomo Ben-Zvi is set to take over the Maariv media group on Thursday and launch his planned reorganization, which will include layoffs.

Ben-Zvi has announced from the start that he would lay off staff, although he will rehire many of them. Some dismissal notices were sent last Thursday, when about 100 administrative employees were told they were being let go.

The takeover follows court approval for the sale of the Maariv daily, its nrg website and related publications by Nochi Dankner's IDB group.

On Thursday, Ben-Zvi will transfer NIS 12 million toward the purchase price. He will later pay up to NIS 68 million more from proceeds generated by the newspaper's operations.

Ben-Zvi did not buy the paper's printing plant in Bat Yam, which was sold separately to businessman Amos Maimon for NIS 65 million.

Ben-Zvi, who also publishes the right-leaning daily Makor Rishon, will serve as Maariv's editor. He has hired a close associate, Elad Tene, to become deputy editor. Tene is former news editor of the ynet website and editor of Makor Rishon's weekend magazine.

Last Thursday was the last day on the job for Maariv's outgoing editor, Nir Hefetz. It is not clear who will become managing editor.

The initial layoffs are in procurement, subscriptions and operations. The entire administrative staff numbers about 350, roughly 250 of whom received letters informing them that they could stay on under the new ownership. On Tuesday, layoff notices are expected among editorial staff, to be followed by dismissal procedures against print workers and employees at Maariv's local weekly newspapers.

Ben-Zvi has committed to rehire 350 editorial and administrative employees and 50 to 70 shipping staff. Ben-Zvi and Maimon, meanwhile, will be rehiring about 100 printing plant workers.

For the time being about 900 newspaper delivery staff remain on the job as well, reporting to the paper's court-appointed trustees. They are expected to eventually be rehired by an outside firm to do the work.

On Wednesday, the trustees, Shlomo Nass and Yaron Arbel, received the antitrust commissioner's approval for the sale to Ben-Zvi, even though he publishes Makor Rishon as well. He was initially due to take over last Thursday but asked for another week to give him time to rehire editorial and administrative employees.

Over the past several weeks, Maariv employees have held demonstrations, expressing concerns about their jobs and whether they will be paid salaries and pension benefits they are owed.

"We are still trying to prevent October salary cuts that the trustees are seeking to impose on all of us, including those at low pay levels," the Maariv journalists' association said in a statement last week.

Shlomo Ben-ZviCredit: Moti Kimchi

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