Nuriel, El Al and Gaydamak

Avshalom Nuriel took the business world by surprise when he emerged out of nowhere and bought 16% of Knafaim, which owns the controlling stake in El Al.

The big question was where he got the money, but the riddle was solved quickly. Nuriel had borrowed $17 million from Phoenix, an insurance company owned by his friend Jacob Shachar.

Their friendship had warmed a year earlier, when Nuriel bought $2 million worth of trucks for his haulage company Moviley Dror from a company Shachar owns.

Before it became clear where Nuriel would come up with another $8 million, the loan from Phoenix became public knowledge, and pressure was brought to bear on the company. Nuriel quickly repaid some debt by selling half his holdings in Knafaim. En route he managed to argue with the Borovich family, Knafaim's controlling shareholders, on his directorship rights following the sale of half of his shares.

Less than six months later, his name appeared in the financial headlines again, as potential partner to the Israeli-Russian billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak in the purchase of fuel company Sonol.

Apparently, the deal was that Gaydamak would provide the money, Nuriel would bring his contacts and reputation, and ownership would be joint.

Gaydamak surely had the money. But Nuriel's reputation proved insufficient to meet the requirements necessary for ownership of a strategic infrastructure company, and the transaction fell through.