Canadian Newspaper Chain Buys Major Shares of Jerusalem Post

A Canadian-based newspaper chain has won the top bid for a controlling interest in The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s only English-language daily paper.

An agreement in principle was reached Tuesday between Hollinger Inc. and Koor Industries, the Histadrut labor federation conglomerate that is liquidating the 55 percent block of shares it now holds.

The agreement was signed by Israel Investors Corporation, the Koor subsidiary that owns the shares, and Hollinger President David Radler of Vancouver.

Shimon Ravid, Koor’s financial director, declined to name the sum to be paid, but confirmed that the Canadian bid was “by far the highest of the eight submitted last week.”

The sums mentioned vary between $17.5 million and $20.6 million. Ari Rath, co-editor and managing director of the Post, said the amount was “probably closer to the $17.5 million figure” — more than twice the $8 million offered by the next highest bidder, U.S. businessman Arye Genger, a former Israeli.

A joint bid by Robert Maxwell and Charles Bronfman was the third largest and considerably lower than the top two.

Rath told Israel Radio Thursday that he, Co-Editor Erwin Frankel and the Post’s editorial staff were satisfied with the purchase by Hollinger, who has promised to maintain the newspaper’s independence and journalistic integrity and to avoid making major staff changes.

EDITORS AND STAFF REASSURED

Rath appeared relieved that the left-leaning paper had not been sold to either Genger or Maxwell. Genger is a protege of Industry and Trade Minister Ariel Sharon, of whom the Post has been highly critical in the past.

Maxwell, who now holds 30 percent of the shares of the afternoon newspaper Ma’ariv, recently criticized its editor for publishing stories on a secret intelligence report that appeared to challenge the assumptions behind some of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s longstanding policies.

The Hollinger Corp. owns close to 80 daily newspapers in the United States and Canada, as well as the Daily Telegraph in Britain. It also has some 120 weeklies, including Saturday Night magazine in Canada and The Spectator in Britain.

The Canadians technically will be buying 55 percent of the shares of the Palestine Post Co., the Post’s holding company, which still maintains the 60-year-old paper’s original name. They will get half the shares of Jerusalem Post publications, which include the newspaper’s lucrative international edition, and its printing presses, which do a healthy general printing business.

Hollinger reportedly has indicated it may be interested in buying the remaining 45 percent of Post shares, now owned by Bank Hapoalim.

The Hollinger press empire, a public company registered on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is controlled by Conrad Black, David Radler and V. White, currently serving as principal secretary to the Canadian prime minister.

Radler is quoted by Ma’ariv Thursday as stressing that it is Hollander policy to give free reign to the individual editors and editorial staffs of the newspapers it owns.

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