Adelson said to lead pack in bid for Maariv, Makor Rishon

Jewish billionaire, who owns the Israel Hayom free daily, places NIS 10 million bid for ailing newspapers

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson, in Jerusalem, 12 August 2007. photo credit: Flash90)
US billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson, in Jerusalem, 12 August 2007. photo credit: Flash90)

Jewish American billionaire and media mogul Sheldon Adelson has reportedly offered more than NIS 10 million ($2.87 million) for the purchase of the Makor Rishon weekly newspaper, which owns the once-popular, cash-strapped Maariv Hebrew daily and its website. Both the media outlets are currently owned by Israeli businessman Shlomo Ben Tzvi and his family.

The Makor Rishon company, which owns Maariv and the Makor Rishon newspaper, is said to owe creditors, including freelancers and employees, some NIS 3.5 million ($1 million) due to Maariv’s lackluster performance.

Earlier this month, Ben Tzvi stated that Maariv owed NIS 50 million ($14.3 million). Ben Tzvi has told courts that his company cannot currently pay its debts. He had reportedly invested some NIS 90 million in the daily over the past year and a half.

Adelson presented his offer through his Israel Hayom company, which publishes Israel’s most widely distributed daily newspaper, Israel Hayom. According to the Walla news portal, Adelson will continue to employ most of the Makor Rishon company’s staff, while Maariv’s website, NRG, will continue to operate as well. Maariv’s print edition, however, is expected to fully merge with the Makor Rishon newspaper.

Adelson’s proposed price topped offers by four other bidders, including the Jerusalem Post company and a group of investors represented by Udi Ragonis, the Makor Rishon company’s current CEO, Walla reported.

Though the deal between Israel Hayom and the Makor Rishon company was not yet officially finalized, sources close to Adelson said they expected to receive a positive answer over the purchase from Makor Rishon company trustees in the coming days.

Maariv workers held a strike outside the newspaper's office building on Tuesday, but still managed to put the paper to bed (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
Maariv workers protesting outside the newspaper’s office building (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

Reports over the likely purchase were met with mixed reactions from Makor Rishon employees, with some expressing concern that Adelson would curb journalistic freedom at the newspaper. Israel Hayom officials, however, maintained that Makor Rishon would continue to operate independently.

Adelson is a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has donated heavily to the Republican party in the US, spending over $92 million helping mostly losing candidates in the 2012 elections.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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