Billionaire Shari Arison’s Arison Group is looking into the distribution of control in Bank Ha’Poalim, with the aim of transforming it into a bank without a controlling core, Israeli media reported Tuesday. Arison recently approached the Bank of Israel to obtain approval for the move, and on Tuesday, received a new control permit, giving Arison Group a year to decide on decentralizing the controlling interest in the Bank.
Last month, Shari Arison was questioned for nine hours by Israel Police on suspicion of her involvement in bribery, and was forbidden to leave the country. Another suspect, Efrat Peled, who is Arison’s business manager, will leave her job at Bank Ha’Poalim along with two other Arison employees. Both women are suspected of involvement in bribing a civil servant in a foreign country and of violating Israel’s Securities Law. The bribe was allegedly paid by the international construction company Shikun U’Binui, which Arison had sold earlier this year.
Shari Arison issued a statement explaining that she had asked the Bank of Israel to look into decentralizing control of the bank following the termination of talks with North American investors which concluded her efforts to find strategic partners to invest in the Bank.
Arison Group will now be able to sell its shares in Bank Ha’Poalim to a number of individual investors, rather than search for a single investor, which means that, eventually, there won’t be a single controlling shareholder in the bank – a situation similar to Bank Leumi.
“I had the privilege to be the controlling shareholder of the bank over the past 21 years,” Arison said in her statement (translated from Hebrew – DI). “I believe in Bank Ha’Poalim and would like to thank the members of the Board of Directors, the management, the generations of employees and the loyal customers. I am convinced that Bank Ha’Poalim, one of the pillars of the Israeli economy, will continue to act in accordance with the vision of financial freedom, to grow and to serve all its clients faithfully.”