Burger Ranch Buyer Denies Borrowing From Seller, Paz

But TheMarker has learned the shares will be held in trust until Yossi Hushinsky returns the money to Paz

Paz is lending businessman Yossi Hushinsky the money to buy the Burger Ranch Israel hamburger franchise from it.

TheMarker has learned that the Burger Ranch Israel shares will be held in trust by attorney Reuven Behar of Behar Fischer until Hushinsky repays the loan.

Hushinsky agreed to buy Burger Ranch Israel from Paz in December. He als owns 10% of the Tiv Taam supermarket group, and is one of the founders - together with Bank Leumi - of the Airport City business park that occupies over half a million cubic meters near Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Paz had attempted to sell the fast food chain to its CEO at the time, Yossi Lubaton, for NIS 27 million, with much of that sum coming as a loan from Paz, but the deal fell through.

Lubaton had been a protege of banker and businessman Zadik Bino, who bought the Burger Ranch rights eight years ago for NIS 35 million (based on current values). Bino's deal priced the company at $8 million.

Sources associated with Paz say that Bino poured NIS 50 million into the chain via shareholder loans.

Burger Ranch has 70 branches and an estimated annual turnover of NIS 130 million. The chain is said to have ended 2005 with losses of about NIS 6 million.

Paz wouldn't comment: It is privately held and does not disclose details about its business matters, it said. Hushinsky called the report a "despicable lie" and Behar declined to comment.