The religious owner of a right-wing publisher on Thursday finalized the purchase
of one of Israel's
leading newspapers, Maariv, despite opposition from much of the daily's staff.
A spokesman for Shlomo Ben-Zvi, who publishes and serves as editor-in-chief of the conservative Makor Rishon newspaper, confirmed the deal.
"In light of this deal, we have purchased Maariv from Nochi Dankner's Discount Investment group for NIS 74 million (roughly $19 million)," Udi Rajones told AFP.
He said some 1,400 employees working in printing, distribution and administration would keep their jobs, along with "around 300 members of the editorial staff."
At the end of 2011, Maariv reportedly employed just over 2,000 people including 377 editorial staff, 136 administrative staff, 177 in its printing operation and another 1,327 in distribution and marketing.
Much of Maariv's staff opposed the sale because of fears that some 1,600 people could lose their jobs.
On Thursday, more than 1,000 people, including Maariv staff and other Israeli journalists, demonstrated in front of Dankner's Tel Aviv offices.
"We still haven't received clear responses on the future of the employees," Maariv's foreign desk head Matan Drori told AFP.
The paper's journalists have threatened to go on strike over the deal, with many also concerned about the future of the newspaper's editorial line after its sale to Ben-Zvi, a West Bank settler who is close to Israel's nationalist, religious Right.
They fear the newspaper, currently considered center-right, could become increasingly conservative under Ben-Zvi's ownership.
Before the deal was finalized, Maariv staff had sought help from Israel's Histradrut trade union confederation to ensure they would receive their upcoming salaries.
Maariv was purchased by Dankner's investment group less than 18 months ago for NIS 300 million ($77 million).
Employees at the paper say it has changed hands five times in the past 20 years.
A number of Israeli newspapers have folded in recent years as media ownership grows increasingly concentrated, with players like the top-selling Yedioth Ahronoth and the free-distribution Israel Hayom crowding out smaller titles.
Yisrael Hayom is owned by Jewish-American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and is considered close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Adelson and Ben-Zvi were once business partners who co-owned a newspaper, but are now involved in a bitter legal dispute.
Founded in 1948, Maariv was the largest Israeli daily in circulation between 1950-60.