CanWest loses battle for 50% of 'Jerusalem Post'

Canadian media group CanWest Global Communications Corp. has lost a legal battle to acquire 50 percent ownership in The Jerusalem Post. At the end of a protracted process, a New York-based arbitrator on Friday denied all CanWest claims to ownership in the Post and further ordered CanWest to pay the costs, expenses and attorneys' fees incurred by the Israeli owners of the Post, Mirkaei Tikshoret, during the legal dispute. The arbitrator ruled that Mirkaei Tikshoret Limited, the Mirkaei Tikshoret Group (MTG) and its owner Eli Azur were the "prevailing parties in this arbitration" and denied "all of the claims" submitted by CanWest. When the sale of the Post by previous owners Hollinger was announced in late 2004, it was stated that CanWest and Mirkaei Tikshoret would jointly own the Post and pay $13.2 million for it. But Geoffrey Elliot, vice president of corporate affairs at CanWest, said on Friday that after MTG acquired the paper, talks between it and CanWest failed to complete what would have been the second phase of the deal under which CanWest would have bought half of the Post. The case then went to arbitration at the International Center for Dispute Resolution in New York, Elliot said in a statement. CanWest asserted that Azur breached his obligations under an agreement to jointly acquire the Post and related media businesses. Azur argued in defense that the parties had never reached a binding agreement. CanWest announced over the weekend that it was reviewing the arbitrator's decision and considering its options. Leonard Asper, president and chief executive officer of CanWest, said he was "extremely disappointed in the arbitrator's decision. We find it very difficult to reconcile the apparent inconsistency in the arbitrator's findings." "On the one hand, the arbitrator found that MTG refused to accept the fundamental tenet of the agreement which provided for the parties to each own an equal interest in the newspaper, but somehow concluded that this did not constitute a breach of the agreement to negotiate with us in good faith," Asper said. Mirkaei Tikshoret had no official comment.