Journalists had threatened to go on strike over the deal
Administrative personnel and journalists of Israeli daily newspaper Maariv demonstrate against their dismissals in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv, on September 20. The Tel Aviv district court approved on Tuesday the sale of one of Israel's leading newspapers, Maariv, to Shlomo Ben-Zvi, a religious owner of a rightwing publisher. © Jack Guez - AFP
Journalists had threatened to go on strike over the deal
AFP
Last updated: October 23, 2012

Israel daily Maariv sold to rightwing publisher

The Tel Aviv district court approved on Tuesday the sale of one of Israel's leading newspapers, Maariv, to Shlomo Ben-Zvi, a religious owner of a rightwing publisher.

The court also approved the deal to sell Maariv's printing house to Amos Maimon.

According to the court protocol, the paper and printing house will be sold for over 140 million shekels ($36.5 million/28 million euros).

The approval came "after it emerged that the employees reached agreements with the buyer regarding the outline of the deal," justice Varda Alshech wrote.

A workers' union had been opposed to the deal due to fears that about 1,600 of Maariv's 2,000 employees would lose their jobs with the new ownership.

Maariv's website NRG reported that following night-long negotiations between the union and Ben-Zvi's representative, the buyer committed to absorb between 450-500 workers, most of them working as reporters, in administration or printing.

In addition, the 900 distribution workers would sell their services to the paper for at least 18 months, NRG said.

The court also noted the "importance of the commitment to employ 1,400 workers" as part of the deal.

At the end of 2011, Maariv reportedly employed just over 2,000 people including 377 editorial staff, 136 administrative staff, 177 in its printing operation and another 1,327 in distribution and marketing.

Prior to the agreement, journalists had threatened to go on strike over the deal, with many also concerned about the future of its editorial line after its sale to Ben-Zvi, a West Bank settler who is close to Israel's nationalist, religious right.

They feared the newspaper, currently considered centre-right, could become increasingly conservative under Ben-Zvi's ownership.

Maariv was purchased by Dankner's investment group less than 18 months ago for 300 million shekels ($77 million/58.8 million euros).

The paper has changed hands five times in the past 20 years.

A number of Israeli dailies have folded in recent years as media ownership grows increasingly concentrated, with players like the top-selling Yediot Aharonot and the free-distribution Israel Hayom crowding out smaller titles.

Haaretz is also currently engaged in cost-cutting and is reportedly in talks to sell its printing press to Yisrael Hayom, which is owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican donor and close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Adelson and Ben-Zvi were once business partners who co-owned a newspaper, but are now involved in a bitter legal dispute.

Founded in 1948, Maariv was the largest Israeli daily in circulation between 1950-60.

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