TEL AVIV (Apr. 12)
An impending sale of shares in the Jerusalem Post has editors worried that potential buyers, including British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, “might prejudice the independence and character of the newspaper.”
The editors’ concern comes as the majority shareholder in the Post, Israeli Investors Corporation, a holding company of the Histadrut’s giant Koor Industries conglomerate, has announced its decision to sell its stake in the paper.
Maxwell, who recently purchased 30 percent of the shares of the afternoon Hebrew-language daily Ma’ariv, has made no secret of his interest in the 57-year-old Post, which was founded in pre-state Palestine.
A Czechoslovak-born Jew and the chairman of Maxwell Communications Corp., Maxwell was outspokenly critical of recent coverage in Ma’ariv and the Post of a secret intelligence report that contradicted many of the prime minister’s positions.
He called the report, which said Israeli intelligence had told the Cabinet it would have to speak to the Palestine Liberation Organization in order to end the uprising, “a bunch of rubbish.”
Israeli journalists were upset over the remark, which they viewed as interference with an editorially independent press.
In a front-page “Statement To Our Readers” that does not mention Maxwell or other investors by name, Post editors wrote Wednesday that they are “intent on safeguarding the editorial independence and journalistic integrity of the newspaper.”
As a result, they have informed Israeli Investors Corporation that “they cannot remain indifferent to a change in ownership” and “regard as inimical bids by individuals or groups which might prejudice the independence or character of the newspaper.
“The editors are seeking to ensure that ownership will be directed to hands compatible with the independence, character and Zionist purpose that have distinguished this newspaper for 57 years.
“This position of the editors has been endorsed by the editorial staff.”
The financially troubled Koor, in the midst of a retrenchment and recovery program, could use the kind of cash that Maxwell seems willing to spend in Israel.
On Tuesday, Maxwell paid $30 million for an 18 percent stake in another former Koor holding, Teva Pharmaceuticals Ltd., one of Israel’s largest and most profitable industrial corporations.
Maxwell’s Bishopsgate investment company pre-empted the Canadian Claridge group, headed by Charles Bronfman, in a race to buy the Teva shares.
The shares were held by Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim, which had bought them from Koor last year.