Fallen Israeli Tycoon's Debt Stands at $790 Million, Trustee Reports

Official estimate comes three weeks after Eliezer Fishman formally declared bankrupt

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Eliezer Fishman outside court in Tel Aviv.
Eliezer Fishman outside court in Tel Aviv.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Eliezer Fishman has debts of about 2.8 billion shekels ($790 million) after creditors seized assets valued at about 1.2 billion shekels, a report by the fallen tycoon’s court-appointed trustee reported on Tuesday.

The report by attorney Joseph Benkel was the first to detail Fishman’s finances since he was formally declared bankrupt three weeks. It also documented Benkel’s efforts to identify Fishman assets held outside Israel and included a requested from Tel Aviv District Court Judge Eitan Orenstein to let him retain an overseas attorney to help with the work.

The report came amid indications that the special Knesset committee to investigate how Israeli banks lost billions of shekels lending tycoons money that was never repaid would not in the end get special powers to summon witnesses.

The panel, popularly known as the Fishman committee, was supposed to get the power to summon executives of publicly traded companies and subpoena documents. But on Tuesday MK Yoav Kish (Likud) interrupted a meeting of the Knesset House Committee as it was deliberating the needed legislation to say Justice Minster Ayalet Shaked opposed it.

Before that David Bitan, the Knesset coalition chairman, said the government wouldn’t support the legislation.

As was widely known, Bank Hapoalim is the largest Fishman creditor, according to the trustee’s report. The bank has seized assets worth 340 million shekels, which leaves it with about 1.5 billion in uncollected debt to date.

Bank Leumi, the second-biggest creditor, did much better, seizing assets of 646 million, leaving it with debt of 258 million.

Benkel reported that among the foreign assets he did identify, Fishman’s Netherlands-based FTT Group had been asked to voluntarily sell assets to repay an unspecified debt but that the debt exceeded the value of the assets.

Orenstein will be holding a hearing next week on Fishman’s finances. Among the issues he will have to rule on is the fate of assets Fishman controlled jointly with his wife Tova as well as shares in his Fishman Retail unit that he transferred to his adult children in February for a symbolic sum.

Benkel also complained that Fishman had not been paying the 15,000 shekels a month payments required by the court. Fishman attorney Shalom Goldblatt denied that, saying all payments had been made through June when his client was declared bankrupt.