Venerable Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, published since 1948, has been sold for NIS 85 million (around $21m.) to Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, publisher of the national-religious right-leaning Makor Rishon. The move was announced Friday and the final purchase is expected to be completed later this week.
The move promises to shake up the already unstable newspaper industry in Israel. A Haaretz analysis speculated that Ben-Tzvi will either move the paper further to the right, in line with Makor Rishon, or stay in the center-right, challenging Israel Hayom for dominance.
Israel Hayom, the free Hebrew daily financed by American-Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has wreaked havoc on the Israeli newspaper industry by offering a free alternative to the major newspapers.
Founded in 2007, it is now the most widely ready daily in the country, while the other major papers, who lack a wealthy patron and face reduced revenue from advertising and competition from online publications, have struggled financially.
Maariv, ranked third in readership behind Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth, announced several weeks ago it was considering a move to a digital-only format, as well as layoffs and other cost cutting measures.
Ben-Tzvi announced that he plans to offer 300-400 current Ma’ariv employees positions after the sale goes into effect, but as Ma’ariv is estimated to employ around 2,000 people, that will mean massive layoffs.
The purchase does not include Ma’ariv’s printing press.
Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday morning, Ma’ariv editor-in-chief Nir Hafetz said that he hoped most journalists would be able to stay on with the new owners.
Hafetz called Ma’ariv a “very important newspaper” and said that it is unclear whether the new ownership would change the ideological bent of the paper. He praised Makor Rishon as a “balanced” and “quality” newspaper and expressed confidence that Ben-Tzvi could continue operating Ma’ariv along the same lines.