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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Channel 10: Billionaire Ronald Lauder out, Israeli ad mogul in

Yafit Greenberg

Channel 10's dominant shareholder Ronald Lauder plans to sell his stake in the station to ad mogul Yafit Greenberg. The proposed sale of Lauder's 30% stake in the station was announced Sunday.

Better known as G.Yafit, Greenberg is ubiquitous on the Israeli airwaves, serving as a pitchwoman for various products.

The agreement over the sale of Lauder's share of Channel 10, which would be subject to regulatory approval, including possible scrutiny over potential conflicts of interest due to Greenberg's media ties, was in the process of being sealed in New York.

Lauder, who is the heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics empire and the president of the World Jewish Congress, has invested more than NIS 500 million in Channel 10 in recent years, but had expressed dissatisfaction in recent months over the station's loss-making performance and stated that he wished to curb his financial involvement in the station.

Channel 10 has failed to provide stiff ratings competition to its larger commercial rival, Channel 2. If the sale of Lauder's stake goes through, it will apparently also break a deadlock over a request to extend Channel 10's license beyond next year. Such a request requires the support of 51% of the station's shareholders but the request requires that the 51% be Israeli citizens. Lauder, who is American, does not qualify.

The extension has been stymied by another investor in the station, Israeli-American Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. He had withheld his support for the license extension and claimed that Lauder had reneged on a purported agreement to cover any of Milchan's losses on his investment. Lauder's associates deny that such an agreement was made, but if Lauder is replaced by Greenberg, who is Israeli, she could pave the way for a request to extend the license beyond next year even if Milchan continues to withhold his support for the move.

Greenberg owns G. Yafit Communications and is also part owner of the G Group of companies, which is involved in electronic commerce. She said that in addition to her own investment in Channel 10, she expects to interest other investors in the station to put it on a firmer business footing. In a statement, she said that the television industry has been good to her over the years. "I want to be good in return," she said, adding that she will do whatever she can to head off the closure of the financially troubled commercial station.

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