27-year-old yeshiva student officially granted controlling stake in El Al

Ministers sign off on permit for Eli Rozenberg — despite Israeli airline’s objections that his non-Israeli father will be the one running the company

Eli Rozenberg, the new controlling shareholder of El Al (Courtesy)
Eli Rozenberg, the new controlling shareholder of El Al (Courtesy)

The Government Companies Authority on Friday officially granted 27-year-old Israeli-American yeshiva student Eli Rozenberg control over El Al Israel Airlines.

Rozenberg’s newly minted Kanfei Nesharim Aviation purchased 42.88 percent of the carrier at $107 million in a September 16 sale, making it the controlling shareholder as defined by Israeli regulation.

But El Al sought to block the American immigrant, accusing him of being a frontman for his father, businessman Kenneth Rozenberg, who is not an Israeli citizen and legally cannot hold shares in the Israeli flagship airline.

A letter from El Al’s attorneys seen by The Times of Israel last week requested that government ministers reject the 27-year old immigrant’s bid to Israel to take control of the company.

Kanfei Nesharim pushed back against the El Al letter, calling it “false” and saying “its sole and transparent purpose is to sabotage, obstruct and delay the transfer of control over El Al to Kanfei Nesharim Aviation.”

El Al planes parked at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel, on August 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Kanfei Nesharim also announced that it planned to appoint new members to El Al’s board of directors and that it had already invited the former Trump administration envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, to join as a member.

Ultimately, Finance Minister Israel Katz, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Transportation Minister Miri Regev and Digital Affairs Minister David Amsalem signed off on the permit for Kanfei Nesharim, the company said in a Friday statement.

Kanfei Nesharim added that it would “reach out to El Al immediately with the aim of replacing the company’s board of directors and allowing it to begin managing the company while setting priorities for recovery.”

As of Friday night, El Al was yet to issue a comment in response to Rozenberg’s granted permit.

Rozenberg was one of three potential buyers, including David Sapir, a Russian-Israeli businessman involved in tourism and telecommunications in Russia, and Meir Gurvitz, a British-Israeli businessman who has real estate activities in the UK and US.

However, he was ultimately the only one of them to place a bid.

The already troubled airline was dealt an almost-fatal blow by the travel-restricting coronavirus crisis, which caused El Al to cease its scheduled passenger operations and send some 5,800 of its 6,303 employees to unpaid leave.

Its financial statements for the first and second quarters of the year warned that there were “considerable doubts” regarding the continued existence of the company as a going concern, with revenues plunging and losses ballooning.

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