Billionaire in exclusive talks to buy 'Ma'ariv'

Russian-born, US industrialist Len Blavatnik has 30 days to close $90m. deal.

Len Blavatnik 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Len Blavatnik 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Nimrodi family is in exclusive talks with Russian-born, US billionaire Len Blavatnik to sell financially ailing Ma'ariv in a deal valued at $90 million, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Blavatnik, founder and president of Access Industries, a US-based international industrial group, wants to buy Ma'ariv from the Nimrodi family and Vladimir Gusinsky, who owns a 27-percent stake in the newspaper. Media reports had placed the Blavatnik bid at $90m. Blavatnik, who is currently based in New York and London, was listed No. 45 on the 2007 Forbes 400 list with an estimated wealth of $7.2 billion. The Nimrodi family, the controlling shareholder of Ma'ariv Holdings, which is part of the Israel Land Development Group (ILDG), on Wednesday signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), or confidentiality agreement, and a so-called "no shop exclusivity agreement" with the Jewish billionaire. The no-shop agreement grants Blavatnik exclusivity in the negotiations with the ILDG for 30 days. In May, Blavatnik purchased a 20% stake in Israeli media company RGE from Aviv Giladi. Access Industries has holdings in a wide range of sectors, including natural resources, chemicals, media, telecommunications and real estate. Ma'ariv would be its first newspaper. Its holdings include Warner Music Group, Amedia, a holding company of one of Russia's largest TV studios and TNK-BP. Ma'ariv Holdings lost NIS 81m. last year as revenue dropped 8% 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. The ILDG Group did not want to confirm or deny the talks with Blavatnik, but said it had signed a no-shop agreement with an international investor over the sale of Ma'ariv. In April, Ma'ariv Holdings announced it was in talks with US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the world's 12th richest man (with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $26b.), who owns the world's biggest casino operator and is publisher Israel Today, a free local daily.