A 27-year-old yeshiva student who was born in New York City but who now lives in Jerusalem has taken control of Israeli flag carrier El Al Airlines. Eli Rozenberg bought $107 million in shares in the debt-laden airline giving him a controlling 43 per cent share in the company. Rozenberg was the only bidder during a share offering at the Tel Aviv stock exchange on Wednesday.
Rozenberg is the son of Kenny Rozenberg, the multi-millionaire chief executive of a chain of nursing homes based in the United States.
One of three potential bidders for El Al, Rozenberg had faced competition from an Israeli-Russian businessman with interests in tourism and a British-Israeli real estate magnate. On the day of the share offering, however, Rozenberg was the only person to place a bid.
As part of a rescue package orchestrated by Israel’s finance ministry, the Israeli government also acquired a 15 per cent stake in the airline worth $34 million. The share offering was a condition of a 75 per cent government-funded $250 million loan to help save El Al from liquidation.
Founded in 1948, El Al was first registered on the Tel Aviv stock exchange in 2003 before the government divested all shares in the company a year later.
Rozenberg’s newly created holding company Kanfei Nesharim Aviation will meet with finance ministry officials next week. From there, the company says it will look to make sweeping changes to the airline in order to make it profitable once more. Rozenberg says he will look to invest heavily in the airline to improve the passenger experience and make the carrier more competitive.
El Al has been largely grounded throughout the Corona crisis but on Thursday, the airline announced plans to restart limited operations next month. From October 1, the carrier will resume regularly scheduled passenger flights to Athens, and from October 12 services to New York, London, and Paris will restart.
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