Leumi Denies Big Sell-off of Fishman Assets

Bank rebuffs tax authority complaint that it is trying to preempt other creditors.

Eliezer Fishman in 2009.
David Bachar

Bank Leumi denied on Tuesday that it was actively involved in trying to sell off Eliezer Fishman’s corporate assets, saying that its efforts to recover some of the 1.7 billion shekels ($450 million) the former business tycoon owed it were limited to a few private holdings.

Leumi was responding to allegations by the Israel Tax Authority that the bank was trying to preempt it and additional creditors. The agency asked Tel Aviv District Court Judge Eitan Orenstein to appoint a receiver for Fishman’s assets, a move that Leumi and other banks quickly followed.

The bank told the court that the special administrators working on its behalf sought to sell small properties owned in the Acre and Petah Tikva areas as well as his holding in the agricultural export company Tnuport — all of them Fishman’s personal assets.

“According to [Fishman], the value of these personal assets is no more than a few tens of millions of shekels in the best of circumstances and one of the assets is his shares in companies,” Leumi said. “This is a small figure in comparison to the value of his corporate assets and certainly in comparison to the extent of Fishman group debts, which are estimated at more than 5 billion shekels.”

Fishman’s financial troubles took a turn for the worse four weeks ago when the Israel Tax Authority asked Orenstein to declare the tycoon bankrupt after he failed to pay a 196-million-shekel tax bill from 2006. Orenstein hasn’t issued an order but barred any asset sales by Fishman or his creditors in the meantime.

Meanwhile, Leumi proposed Tuesday that three receivers be appointed over Fishman’s assets in an effort to settle a dispute with Bank Hapoalim, which is owed 1.8 billion shekels and has sought to appoint two of its own receivers.

Leumi proposed that each of the two banks appoint one receiver and that smaller creditors, including the Israel Tax Authority, name the third.

“Appointing three people to the position will make it easier to arrive at solutions in the event of specific conflicts of interest,” Leumi said.