Court approves NIS 140m 'Ma'ariv' sale to 2 buyers

Following workers protest, deal ensures new owners will continue to employ up to 1,400 of the paper's employees.

Woman reads Ma'ariv 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Woman reads Ma'ariv 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Tel Aviv District Court Judge Varda Alshich on Tuesday approved the NIS 140 million sale of the newspaper Ma’ariv to Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, who will buy the paper and associated assets, and Amos Maimon, who will buy the printing house.
Crucially the new owners have committed to continue to employ up to 1,400 of Ma’ariv’s 2,000 workers – at least for a-year-and-a-half, in most cases.
Only a few weeks ago, Ben-Tzvi had offered only NIS 74m., ensuring the employment of at most 300 workers, and Ma’ariv’s trustees and management were considering accepting.
Heavy pressure from the workers, who not only created poor publicity regarding the deal, but are also owed around NIS 95m. of the total NIS 408m. of Ma’ariv’s debt, was one of many factors that may have influenced the change.
Because the workers are owed such a large percentage of the debt, their opposition to the deal could have doomed it once it was submitted to the court.
The new arrangement – which included splitting some of the assets among two buyers, thus reducing the risk that each buyer took on – appears to have been assured of approval, according to the court’s decision, precisely because the workers eventually got behind it.
Ma’ariv’s trustees, attorneys Yaron Arbel and Shlomo Nass, who have been overseeing the operations for the last several weeks, proposed the deal. They were appointed only weeks ago to try and maximize Ma’ariv’s value as a going concern or by liquidation, as they deemed fit, to best protect the paper’s creditors, including the employees.
In the same court order, the court froze any litigation against Ma’ariv to try to temporarily assist the paper and its trustees in maximizing its chances of being sold as a going concern.
The complex and sensitive negotiations with Ma’ariv’s workers union continued through the night until 6 a.m. Tuesday, only shortly before the court hearing.
The winning bid followed a competitive bidding process, but it promised the highest purchase price and to save the most employees.
There were a few remaining objectors at Tuesday’s hearing, including a major secured creditor and one of Ma’ariv’s shareholders.
However, the court said that their specific issues could be addressed following the sale.
Further, the court said that each of their objections, if used to hold up the sale, would not only damage all the other parties involved by possibly stymieing Ma’ariv’s chance to be sold as a going concern, but also damage the objectors’ long-term interests.
The court specifically noted that the earlier owners and management could still be sued and prosecuted under the deal.
In many cases, sales of such companies limit the liability of former owners and management. The fact that this deal included no such limit lifted another potential obstacle to the deal’s approval.
The court emphasized repeatedly that even if the agreement was not perfect, it was undoubtedly the best one available and that Ma’ariv was and would be in a state of virtual collapse and insolvency until the agreement was approved.
Accordingly the court felt the situation required quick approval and essentially gave the sides until October 29 to complete the deal.
The only other legal obstacle was checking with the Antitrust Authority if it needed to approve the arrangement.
The court expressed confidence that the authority would move fast on any inquiries and approvals so as not to hold up and ruin the deal.

Ben Hartman and Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.