Maariv board approves paper’s sale to right-leaning publisher

Decision comes amid escalating protest measures from Hebrew daily’s workers, who stand to lose their jobs without full compensation

Israel's main newspapers. (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israel's main newspapers. (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The board of directors of the Hebrew daily Maariv on Wednesday night approved the sale of the paper to businessman Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, the owner of the right wing-leaning newspaper Makor Rishon.

According to the Hebrew economic daily Calcalist, Ben-Tzvi will pay between NIS 45 million ($11.51m.) and NIS 75m. for the paper and will retain some 300 Maariv workers. On September 9 it was reported that Ben-Tzvi had purchased Maariv for NIS 85 million (roughly $21m.). However, Ben-Tzvi later backed out of the deal, having examined the finances of the paper, and demanded that the purchase price be lowered.

The decision comes amid escalating protest measures from the paper’s 2,000-odd workers, who stand to lose much of their severance pay as well as their jobs, due to the shaky financial straits of Maariv and its principal shareholder, Nochi Dankner.

On Wednesday, Dankner said that he would not be able to pay the entire sum, and expected his partners to come up with part of the money, estimated at some NIS 40 million.

Maariv workers stepped up their protest Thursday morning, announcing in a front-page piece titled “You’re ignoring us; from now on we’re ignoring you” that they would no longer be displaying the names or pictures of Israeli ministers in the paper’s news pages.

On Wednesday evening, Maariv employees arrived at the newspaper’s offices for a meeting called by the workers’ union, and were reportedly shocked to find the building guarded by private security guards hired by the paper’s management. Later on Wednesday night, a meeting between union representatives, Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini and Dankner concluded without agreement.

The workers’ union has emphasized that it will settle for nothing less than full severance pay for all dismissed employees as well as maximum absorption of the staff under the new management while preserving the rights of all of the workers.

A workers’ rally was scheduled for Thursday in Tel Aviv, outside of the offices of IDB, the holding company owned by Dankner. Maariv also reported that the workers would hold daily vigils in front of Dankner’s home and that of Ofer Nimrodi, who is the second largest shareholder.

Meanwhile, in what Maariv has termed a “surprising” show of support from the political right, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said on his Facebook page on Wednesday that he does not want to see Maariv close down. While acknowledging that the paper has no shortage of “aggressive left-wing journalists,” Ben-Ari also said that “Maariv stands out in a sea of biased journalism,” and called for government intervention.

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