The ultra-Orthodox boycott of Blue Square may resume in the wake of a lawsuit Blue Square filed against Yehuda Porat, the former CEO of Blue Square subsidiary Shefa Shuk, which serves the ultra-Orthodox market.
A source in the ultra-Orthodox community says Blue Square alleges that Porat disclosed commercial secrets to competitor Super-Sol, and that the community's rabbis will respond to this affront against one of their own by ratcheting up the boycott.
Blue Square's ownership of AM:PM, a 24-7 convenience store chain that is open on Shabbat, has not yet resulted in an official ultra-Orthodox boycott against the Blue Square group - mainly due to the opposition of certain rabbis.
About five months ago, some ultra-Orthodox community leaders told their followers not to patronize Blue Square in an attempt to start an unofficial boycott, but that lukewarm declaration has slowly allowed a moderate recovery in sales at Shefa Shuk stores, compared to the beginning of the boycott.
Now, however, Blue Square may be facing a complete boycott.
"Weissman (Blue Square controlling shareholder David Weissman - N.T.) does not realize what he is doing," says the source. "The Haredim will not let him harm one of their own. The Lithuanian rabbis have protected Weissman so far by refusing to sign the boycott order, unlike the Hassidic rabbis. That suit will destroy Shefa Shuk completely."
"Weissman is misdirecting his fire," said another source from the ultra-Orthodox supermarket sector. "He should find out who really instigated the boycott and who is funding the propaganda in the Haredi community. It is not Yehuda Porat."
Porat, who is currently on vacation, declined to comment. However, he reportedly told associates, "The suit is nonsense. It is an insult to Weissman's intelligence. They have targeted the gatekeeper [Porat]."
Porat contends he is a victim of the fight between Weissman and Nochi Dankner, Super-Sol's controlling shareholder. Immediately after the boycott against Shefa Shuk began,
Blue Square accused Super-Sol, and particularly Porat, of instigating the consumer protest. In response, Weissman began poking into Porat's management of Shefa Shuk, hired a private investigator, and last week fired back with the lawsuit.
Blue Square filed a NIS 10 million suit against Porat last Friday, alleging that Porat had relayed commercial secrets to competitor Super-Sol, and helped it launch Yesh, a subsidiary chain that competes with Shefa Shuk.
Porat was an external advisor for the establishment of Yesh, and was due to become its CEO, but resigned two months ago.
The suit alleges that Porat resigned from Blue Square in order to join Super-Sol and help it open a new chain targeting ultra-Orthodox consumers.
Blue Square also accuses Porat of running Shefa Shuk as if it were his own personal enterprise, and using millions of shekels worth of purchase vouchers intended for needy families.
The suit also says Blue Square gave Porat a retirement grant of NIS 1.4 million as a goodwill gesture - before learning of Porat's alleged misdeeds.
No comment was available from Blue Square.
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