U.S. billionaire Ron Lauder weighs future of Israel´s Channel 10 (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Amir Teig and Nati Tucker 08/05/12)
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World Jewish Congress president and heir to Estee Lauder faces a
decision: inject NIS 60 million into the ailing commercial TV station
and assure its future, or begin the process of shutting it down.
Ron Lauder finds himself alone again in the battle for the future of
Channel 10 television, after negotiations with potential investors
broke down this week.
Lauder, who is president of the World Jewish Congress and heir to the
Estee Lauder cosmetics empire, has a 25% stake in Channel 10. He is
faced with a decision over whether to inject NIS 60 million into the
ailing commercial TV station and assure its future, or begin the
process of shutting it down. Even closing the station, industry
sources say, would involve Lauder having to pay out about NIS 60
million to Channel 10´s suppliers, employees and creditors.
The station owes another NIS 60 million to the state and additional
sums to the Arigo Fund and the Israel Film Fund, but those sums are
personally guaranteed by Yossi Maiman, the station´s majority
shareholder, who has a 51% stake in Channel 10.
At this stage, the prospects don´t seem bright that the debt to the
state will be deferred or converted into a commitment to invest the
sum into program content. Sources at the station point an accusing
finger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Although the prime minister´s ties to Lauder have warmed recently, it
does not appear that Netanyahu is willing to have the state come to
the station´s rescue. In the past, sources at the Prime Minister´s
Office have denied that Netanyahu´s bureau has been involved in any
decision making regarding the station.
In the current regulatory environment, if the station cannot meet its
debt obligations, it will not be able to renew its broadcast license
for 2013 and will be forced to close.
If the matter is sent back to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein´s
office, however, Channel 10 may be able to continue operating,
industry sources say. At the end of 2011, Deputy Attorney General Avi
Licht issued a controversial legal opinion contending that the
station could indeed continue operating, even if it did not pay its
obligations to the state on time. Sources suggest that Channel 10
could continue to broadcast if another legal opinion were issued
stating that the station could be given permission to broadcast for
another year, based on its current license, if it puts its debt in
order during that time.
Sources at Licht´s office said they are not dealing with the matter
at the moment, but sources close to Lauder have expressed a measure
of optimism that the station will stay on the air. Lauder´s staff has
begun refilling the ranks of the station´s management, following
departures in recent months that were caused in part by Channel 10´s
Among those who would need to be replaced are Yossi Warshavsky, who
resigned as CEO of the station in May. Lauder has an interest in
about 30 television stations in Eastern Europe and is apparently
considering bringing in someone from abroad to fill the CEO position
to direct the content side of the station. However, observers say
that when it comes down to it, the prospect of such a move is slim.
The station is expected to start cutting costs soon, probably
including additional salary reductions, particularly at the highest
levels, where some staff, including on-air talent, enjoy salaries
that are more generous than the industry norm. (© Copyright 2012
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