Daily newspaper Ma'ariv is to be sold to Israeli businessman Shlomo Ben-Zvi, the paper's board of directors decided Wednesday night. An official statement on the matter is set to be released on Thursday, Ma'ariv officials said.
Board Chairman Nochi Dankner, who is abroad, did not attend the meeting where the controversial sale was decided. The sale has been the subject of much concern among Ma'ariv's 2,000-some workers, many of whom are likely to lose their jobs as a result of the sale. Before leaving, Dankner met with union officials, and promised him that he would work to retain at least 96% of the value of their pensions. The union said that it was demanding the full amount, but the union's options are seen as limited; if the union strikes, Ben-Zvi, the new owner, could close the paper down altogether and integrate its assets with Makor Rishon, the weekly rightwing paper that he owns.
Ma'ariv workers are planning a mass demonstration Thursday afternoon. The demonstration will set out from Ma'ariv's building in downtown Tel Aviv and proceed to the Azrieli Center, where the offices of Danker's IDB Holdings are located. Workers conducted a similar demonstration last week, blocking traffic and snarling rush hour commuters. Unlike in demonstrations against the 2005 disengagement, police did not arrest any of the Ma'ariv demonstrators last week. Union officials promised a much bigger show of strength on Thursday.
Beginning Thursday, Ma'ariv editors are “boycotting” photos of government ministers; the photos will not be published, as punishment for their failing to come up with money to bail out the paper, which owes tens of millions of shekels to creditors.
The paper has long been considered a financial "basket case," surviving through a creative combination of refinancing and sales that enabled workers to keep their union contracts. However, it appeared that the paper's luck had just about run out, even without the Ben-Zvi sale; severa months ago, editors announced that Ma'ariv would be moving to an all digital format, with the paper published only on-line, except for Fridays and holiday eves. The move would have entailed the layoffs of much of the paper's staff, in any event.