Between El Al and Gaydamak

Avshalom Nuriel took the business world by surprise when he emerged out of nowhere and bought 16 percent of Knafaim, the controlling shareholder of El Al.

The big question that hung in the air was where he got so much money. The riddle was solved quickly. Nuriel had received a generous loan of $17 million from the Phoenix company, owned by his friend Jacob Shahar. Their friendship had warmed a year earlier, when Nuriel bought trucks valued at $2 million from a company owned by Shahar. 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 repayed debt, financing it by selling half of 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. But Nuriel's reputation proved insufficient to meet the requirements necessary for ownership of a strategic infrastructure company, and the transaction fell through.