Nochi Dankner, the former chairman of the IDB Group, took the witness stand in Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday morning, at the start of the defense phase of his trial.
Together with his co-defendant Itay Strum, the owner of ISP Group, Dankner is accused of having manipulated IDB shares in February 2012.
The Calcalist financial daily reported that Dankner, who appeared before Judge Khaled Kabub, put much of the blame for IDB’s collapse on former communications minister Moshe Kahlon’s reforms in the cellular telephone market.
“The group collapsed because of the stringent reforms in the cellular field,” he said. “We held half of Cellcom through Discount Investment Corporation. The company was worth more than three billion dollars at its peak. When the reform began, the company’s market value went down by half a billion.”
“When I entered the management of IDB, I found a group in a bad, unstable situation,” he added. “The companies were not being run. I went into action and hard work with my team – I am mainly a working man. I love to work, and my wife does not like that very much.
“I found a group with 160 companies. I thought that was too much, and over the years I reduced the decentralization and concentrated on an increasingly small number of companies…. We had successes in that field.”
According to a report in the Globes financial daily, Dankner said that “a flock of black swans” – his term for unexpected disaster – “descended upon us” in May and June 2011. These were the reform in the cellular telephone field, his continued efforts to increase his stake in Credit Suisse and his purchase of the Las Vegas Plaza together with Yitzhak Tshuva.
“I do not deny responsibility for my failures and poor decisions,” Dankner said.