Arnon Mozes, the embattled controlling shareholder of the Yedioth Ahronoth publishing group, is seeking financing to buy the 34% stake now owned by Bank Hapoalim for an estimated 300 million shekels ($82.8 million).
Mozes has approached institutional investors, including the insurance companies Menorah and Phoenix, to borrow between 100 million and 140 million shekels to help pay for the purchase. But there is no certainty at this stage he can get the financing, in part due to his uncertain legal status
Mozes was named by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit last Thursday in a draft indictment for attempted bribery for his role in Case 2000, one of three that have ensnared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mozes is alleged to have sought to trade friendly coverage in Yedioth for legislation that would have undermined the paper’s chief rival, the free daily Israel Hayom.
Israel Hayom, which is owned and heavily subsidized by U.S. billionaire and Netanyahu backer Sheldon Adelson, has been a thorn in the side of the Yedioth group for the last decade, and is responsible for the losses the group has run up, mainly due to its print media business.
Mozes, who announced plans to buy the Hapoalim stake in January, owns 24% of Yedioth but has voting rights amounting to 60%.
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Hapoalim acquired its shares two years ago when the failed tycoon Eliezer Fishman was declared bankrupt. Fishman had been lent 1.1 billion shekels by the bank 20 years earlier to buy the stake. A sale would be booked by Hapoalim as a recovered loss and help offset the huge charges it faces for a U.S. tax probe.
Mozes is also reportedly seeking to buy another 8% of the Yedioth group owned by Israel Discount Bank.