Gaydamak: Not the Businessman We Thought He Was

Arcadi Gaydamak is a man of images. Over the past two years he has managed himself and his image almost wondrously, conquering the hearts of many. He sailed through one sector after another, here petting, there pampering, and mainly, splashing out a great deal of money buying popularity.

Everything was going swimmingly, until Gaydamak reached the stock exchange. Here his image cracked. Suddenly, the man painted as a leading international businessman with the Midas touch and a generous heart turned out to be amateurish, almost ludicrous, making mistakes of a greenhorn. Suddenly, it seems, there is nothing behind all of the blown up declarations and the grandiose deal with a catchy, round figure - $100 million.

Where is the third retail chain? And the price war? What happened to the 100 new outlets for Ocif, another company for which Gaydamak seeks business? And what happened to the grand plan to remove the pork and make customers' refrigerators kosher? And what Jewish tradition?

It's all inflated ego. No vision, no thought, no management, no consideration. No nothing. Absolutely nothing.

On the other hand, that's what's beautiful about the stock exchange: ironically, in the very place where money buys everything, it becomes obvious that not everyone with piles of money knows how to use it wisely. More than anywhere else, the exchange separates serious businessmen from those who are all talk. And what the exchange showed yesterday is that Gaydamak is not a businessman.

Nevertheless, he cut his losses when he canceled the deal yesterday. The about-face on the Tiv Taam deal will soon be forgotten, and the betrayed customers of Amit Berger and Kobi Tribitch will continue to swipe their credit cards on Shabbat. Gaydamak got off easily.

But Tribitch (who founded Tiv Taam) and Berger (who saved him after the Rafi Ginat affair) fared more poorly yesterday, as their professionalism was shown to be marginal at best. In its initial announcement, Tiv Taam notified the Israel Securities Authority that cancellation of the transaction by Gaydamak would subject him to a $20 million fine. And just three days ago, on Saturday morning, after rumors of the faltering deal began to circulate, Berger and Tribitch announced "the sale of control of the Tiv Taam chain to Arcadi Gaydamak is proceeding smoothly, as are the plans to upgrade the chain, and transform it into the third-largest food chain in Israel."

Yet yesterday everything was turned inside out. Tribitch and Berger remained nearly empty handed - Tribitch was left with a mere $2 million, and Berger managed to sell Gaydamak 10 percent of his company (Enter Holdings) for 30 million shekels. They both lost because their chain suffered a blow: its employees, suppliers and customers all angry, and its managers exposed.

No wonder that Tiv Taam shares dropped yesterday to levels even below pre-transaction prices.