Adelson offering $50m. for 'Ma'ariv'

He wants 'clean slate' to employ only staffers he wishes to retain.

adelson sheldon 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
adelson sheldon 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
Stepping up his pursuit of Ma'ariv, Sheldon Adelson has offered $50 million for Israel's second-biggest newspaper, The Jerusalem Post has been told. But one of his conditions is that he be able to take over the paper as a "clean slate" - be required to continue to employ only those staffers he wishes to retain, with the rest to be paid off by the outgoing ownership, which is controlled by the Nimrodi family and Russian-Israeli millionaire Vladimir Gusinsky. Ma'ariv Holdings announced earlier this week that it was in talks with Adelson, who owns the world's biggest casino operator, is estimated to be the world's 12th richest man (with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $26 billion), and publishes a free local daily called Israel Today. The significance of Adelson's "clean slate" demand, it is speculated, is that he may wish to acquire Ma'ariv less with the idea of maintaining it, and more to use it as a platform for Israel Today. Ma'ariv Holdings also announced this week that it is holding negotiations with Ha'aretz about unspecified "cooperation." Ha'aretz, citing its publisher, Amos Shocken, said the two sides had been discussing working together in circulation, classified and local weeklies. The Post has been told, however, that Ha'aretz is also interested in acquiring Ma'ariv, and has offered $30m. Ma'ariv was not available for comment on Thursday evening, and there was no response from Ha'aretz by press time. Ma'ariv Holdings lost NIS 81m. last year as revenue dropped 8 percent to NIS 700m. Israeli dailies face increasing competition for readers and advertisers from the Internet and television, as well as free newspapers. It is estimated that Ma'ariv stands to lose some NIS 120m. in 2008. Those losses, the Post was told, are raising the pressure on its owners to sell, although the current owners are trying to offset such pressures by pumping in funding. Newspaper speculation had placed the Adelson bid at anywhere from $30m. to $100m. The relatively low $50m. figure, it is said, reflects Adelson's sense of the pressure Ma'ariv faces to sell because of its losses. Adelson is chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas- based Las Vegas Sands, the world's largest casino company by market value. Bloomberg contributed to this report.