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Arms Dealer Nimrodi Buys Ma’ariv, a Casualty of the Maxwell Debacle

Ma’ariv, Israel’s second-largest newspaper, which was part of the late Robert Maxwell’s crumbling media empire, is back in Israeli hands, and its future apparently is secure for the time being.

The debt-Israeli arms dealer Ya’acov Nimrodi and his associates, who reportedly paid $18 million for Maxwell’s 87 percent share of Modi’in, the company that published Ma’ariv.

He also reportedly agreed to take over Ma’ariv’s debts, amounting to $50 million.

The deal was signed Sunday in London by Nimrodi and Arthur Anderson, the court-appointed accounting firm that has been managing Ma’ariv since Maxwell’s mysterious death Now. 5.

The buyout came as a relief to Ma’ariv staff members worried about their jobs. They were especially pleased that the newspaper would remain under Israeli control.

“We are glad it’s gone that way,” one staff member told Israel Radio on Monday. “Recent experience of Israel Radio on Monday. “Recent experience of Israeli newspapers bought by foreign interests has not been too good.”

The journalist was referring to the English-language Jerusalem Post, bought two years ago by the Canadian-based Hollinger chain, which promptly fired most of its veteran staff members and gave the previously moderate newspaper a tilt to the right.

Hollinger reportedly was interested in acquiring Ma’ariv but dropped out because it could not obtain all of the information it wanted about the paper’s debt burden.

LAGGING IN CIRCULATION

Nimrodi is chairman of the board and majority stockholder of the Israel Lands Development Co. His son, Ofer, is managing director.

Nimrodi, who was for 10 years Israel’s military attache in Teheran in the time of the shah, played a pivotal role in the Iran-Contra arms deal. He is a business associate of Saudi arms merchant Adnan Khashoggi, as well as a personal friend of Shimon Peres, the former labor Party leader.

Nimrodi bought Ma’ariv in partnership with the family of Shimon Hefetz, the paper’s managing editor, who owned 8 percent of the stock, and Ma’ariv’s former editor in chief, Ido Dissentchik, who held 0.5 percent.

The only minority shareholder who refused to join is the current chief editor, Dov Judkowsky, who owns 5 percent of the paper’s stock.

Judkowsky was appointed to his job personally by Maxwell, who was related to the editor by marriage. Dissentchik’s future with the newspaper and that of other senior editors has been the subject of conflicting reports.

Although it is the second most widely read newspaper in Israel, Ma’ariv’s circulation lags far behind its afternoon competitor, Yediot Achronot.

According to a 1991 media survey by the Israel Advertising Association, 51.7 percent of the Hebrew-reading public bys Yediot. Achronot on Weekdays, compared to 14.6 percent who buy Ma’ariv and 8.8 percent who buy Ha’aretz, Israel’s intellectual daily newspaper.

Yediot’s weekend edition, published Friday, draws 79 percent more readers than Ma’ariv, Hadashot and Ha’arets combined.

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