One of Israel’s best-known property developers, Eldad Peri, was shot to death in Rehovot Friday morning as he arrived at his local synagogue.
Police believe that Peri, 44, was likely murdered over money he owed nonbank lenders, but noted that he had never complained to police about threats against him.
Peri had racked up a personal debt of about 342 million shekels ($106 million), in addition to about 500 million shekels owed by his company, TheMarker reported in June. He faced a court-ordered bankruptcy proceeding.
According to the initial investigation, Peri drove his car from his home in Rehovot to his regular synagogue, less than a mile away, arriving at 6:15 A.M. After parking he opened the trunk to retrieve items from it. Police suspect that a man on a motor scooter waited for him in the parking lot, fired a few bullets into Peri’s torso and fled the scene. Two joggers who heard the shots called the police. Peri was declared dead at the scene.
The owner of Peri Real Estate came to public attention about a decade ago as the director of purchasing groups, a popular model for buying apartments from builders. The company took off around 2015, building thousands of apartments in giant projects around the country by means of purchasing groups that he led. Associates of Peri describe a company with a flashy marketing department and an owner to match, part of the high-end image that Peri cultivated by pouring money into PR, surrounding himself with celebrities and investing heavily in Israeli sports.
The legal proceedings against him began about a year ago, when a former partner in the company, the Swiss billionaire Chaim Hemo, filed a request to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against the company. The application followed a number of complaints and payment claims submitted to the courts by buyers in Peri Real Estate projects.
The claims related to money that had disappeared, payments that went missing from trustee accounts and failure to provide collateral warranties to purchasers, among other things. Concerns were raised about the conduct of lawyers and trustees of the various purchasing groups. On many of the company’s projects, it turned out that lawyers appointed to represent purchasers also represented Peri.
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Additionally, many customers claimed that the company stole hundreds of millions of shekels from them, including by collecting down payments on apartments that were already mortgaged and by depositing funds into a company account rather than the trust account, as required. Hemo’s suit disclosed the company’s enormous debt, exceeding 500 million shekels, leading the court to issue a stay of proceedings against the company.
Over the past two months Peri Real Estate collapsed and Peri went into debt after giving guarantees to companies and private individuals in exchange for loans. As part of the court-ordered bankruptcy Peri’s home was put up for a sale by a lawyer the court appointed as trustee of his personal assets.
More than 40 creditors – companies and individuals – have sued Peri for payment. His personal debt and the economic turmoil in which his company found itself apparently led him to turn to nonbank lenders as well.