Yaakov Paz named as acting CEO amid police probe involving Netanyahu aides.
(photo credit: COURTESY BEZEQ)
The board of directors at Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecom company, named an interim CEO on Wednesday to replace Stella Handler – who is under house arrest – as she is being investigated by the police in a corruption case surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aides.
Yaakov Paz, 54, was appointed acting CEO at a special board meeting, taking up the role immediately. It remains undetermined how long Paz will serve in the position, a Bezeq representative told The Jerusalem Post.
Paz is a vice president and head of Bezeq’s business division, who has worked at the company since 2007.
Prior to Bezeq, Paz served as CEO of DoubleU of the Clal Industries Group and as chairman of Alcatel Israel.
From 2002 to 2006 he worked as CEO of Alcatel Israel, and held previous positions at Nortel Networks.
Handler was arrested last week on suspicion of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and other securities offenses.
Handler was released from police custody on Monday, Reuters reported. A judge also ordered she be kept from the Bezeq premises for a month.
In what is dubbed Case 4000, or the Bezeq-media case, the prime minister is alleged to have ordered top aide Shlomo Filber – who he appointed as director-general of the Communications Ministry – to issue favorable rulings for Bezeq.
In exchange, Bezeq’s news site – Walla! – is accused of granting positive coverage to Netanyahu and his wife, with the prime minister’s aide Nir Hefetz managing the contact.
On the other side, owner of Walla! and controlling shareholder and former chairman of Bezeq, Shaul Elovitch, is said to have coordinated the coverage.
Elovitch – a friend of the prime minister – was arrested alongside Handler and other Bezeq officials. He has stepped down from the board, acquiescing to demands from shareholders amid the criminal probes.
In separate developments, a battle has been brewing for weeks over who will be appointed to Bezeq’s board of directors. Activist investor Elliot Advisors has publicly spoken out against names proposed by the Bezeq parent company, signaling a struggle over the firm’s direction.
Last month, Elliot Advisors demanded the immediate resignation of some members of Bezeq’s board, in a call for corporate governance reform.