Antitrust Commissioner David Gilo on Wednesday approved the sale of the Makor Rishon daily to Jewish-American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who also own the free daily Israel Hayom. Gilo also approved the sale of Maariv to Jerusalem Post owner Eli Azur. The court is expected to sanction the deals on Thursday.
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Contrary to recent reports, the Antitrust Commission did not impose any restrictions on the sale of Makor Rishon. Leading up to Gilo's approval of the sale, sources in the antitrust field said Gilo would possibly bar any joint involvement between Makor Rishon and Israel Hayom, either with respect to content or on a business level.
Makor Rishon pressured Gilo in recent days to approve the deal. The paper's employees, who on Wednesday held a protest outside Gilo's house, argued that rejecting the sale to Adelson would result in the closure of the daily.
Shlomo Ben-Zvim, who owned Makor Rishon along with the Maariv daily, is now being forced to sell both publications along with Maariv’s news website, NRG, in the face of a mountain of debt.
Adelson was also the highest bidder for the NRG site. The Jerusalem District Court approved the sale of Makor Rishon and NRG to Adelson for 17 million shekels ($4.9 million), but conditioned the transaction on the approval of the antitrust commissioner.
The court approved a 4 million shekel bid for the sale of Maariv to Jerusalem Post owner Eli Azur, but also conditioned that transaction upon approval by Gilo.
Adelson's mass circulation free newspaper Israel Hayom is seen as supportive of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Makor Rishon has a right-of-center Zionist orientation.