Ramon Helping Eliahu Gain Control of Bank Leumi

Haim Ramon met a few months ago with the head of the Knesset Finance Committee, and it seems they discussed the changes in the Banking Law.

A year and a half ago, businessman Shlomo Eliyahu announced that former minister Haim Ramon would work on his behalf to put together a controlling interest in Bank Leumi. Now it turns out that Ramon, who is the chairman of the Kadima Party's council, has also been conducting other business on Eliyahu's behalf in the past few months.

Ramon met a few months ago with the Knesset Finance Committee head Moshe Gafni, and it seems they discussed the changes in the Banking Law, which are meant to allow a bank to operate without a controlling owner.

Ramon denies lobbying the government for Eliyahu.

The new law was initiated by the Finance Ministry with the support of the Bank of Israel, and is expected to come to a vote in the committee soon.

The law will affect Bank Leumi first and foremost. The state controls Leumi but is expected to sell off its remaining 6% share after the legislative process is completed.

Leumi will then be the first Israeli bank to have no controlling owner. The public will hold most of the bank's shares.

Eliyahu owns 9.6% of Leumi and had planned on joining forces with the Jewish Colonial Trust, which has a 4.95% holding in the bank, to create a controlling interest. But the proposed changes in the law would allow such a group to nominate only one director. This is where Ramon comes in. He seems to be leading Eliyahu's fight against the changes in the law. Ramon served for 26 years as a minister and MK and has broad connections in the political and business worlds. He said he is not lobbying but will attend the coming committee session with Eliyahu to present his views.