Haim Saban Seals Deal to Buy Controlling Stake in Partner

Communications company does business in Israel under the Orange brand.

Israeli-American entertainment mogul Haim Saban sealed the deal Friday to acquire a controlling stake in Partner Communications, the cellular service company that does business in Israel under the Orange brand.

While Saban himself was hosting his annual policy forum in Washington, in Hong Kong his representatives wrapped up a plan that will give him a controlling stake in Partner, which is currently controlled by Ilan Ben-Dov's Scailex Corporation.

Ben-Dov had acquired control of Partner from Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, which helped finance the initial sale and is still owed $300 million.

At one point Hutchison agreed to buy back the company but ultimately reconsidered. The sale to Saban came after Partner ran into financial difficulties. Scailex, through which Ben-Dov controlled Partner, had problems meeting its own debt obligations, which are estimated at NIS 2.9 billion.

The deal calls for Saban to assume Scailex's $300 million loan to Hutchison. He will also inject NIS 250 million in funding to Scailex, which is thought to be Saban's biggest risk in the deal.

"It's a great honor to be a partner of Saban's," Ben-Dov said. "All of the debtholders involved in the transaction should be satisfied today."

The sale to Saban is expected to be completed in the first half of next year and is subject to a number of conditions, including Communications Ministry approval and approval of Scailex's bondholders.