Sources inform “Globes” that Arison Holdings chairperson Shari Arison secretly left Israel for Miami several days ago.
Arison is transferring her business headquarters to Miami, although her business interests in Israel will continue. However, she is closing the Ted Arison Family Foundation, which donated $23 million a year to community projects and hospitals in Israel.
Arison left Israel with her husband Ofer Glazer. Associates said she was "fed up" from Israel's attitude toward her and her husband, and she was no longer interested in living in Israel or making donations here.
Arison, her husband and children left Israel Saturday night. They made no prior announcement of their departure, traveling hastily under a cloak of secrecy. Arison is currently staying for a few days in New York. She summoned a core of close associates - secretaries and attorneys - for a meeting to receive instructions and guidelines.
Arison's spokesperson said in response to the report, "Shari Arison has decided to move to Miami, Florida, for personal reasons. The decision was taken a few days ago. Her husband, Ofer Glazer, is with her and will travel between Israel and Miami for business purposes and family visits.
"The family business will continue uninterrupted, except that the headquarters will be moved to Miami. Shlomo Nehama will continue as managing director." Bank Hapoalim (LSE:BKHD; TASE:POLI) chairman Nehama is also managing director of Arison Holdings.
Since the Arison family acquired the controlling interest in Bank Hapoalim in late 1997, Shari Arison has stayed well in the background concerning its management. Even after her father, Ted Arison, passed away, she kept in the background, in the kind of obscurity so convenient to a billionaire of her type.
The investment in Bank Hapoalim has not been a very happy one for the Arison family, to put it mildly. Even after the distribution of generous dividends during the boom, the family has lost an estimated $100 million on the investment, not including financing expenses, and the loss of returns on alternative investments.
Associates of Shari Arison told "Globes" that she was disgusted by "everything that was being done to her in Israel." They were referring to the string of events associated with her in the past year, including the laying off of 900 Bank Hapoalim employees at the end of 2002, the publicity surrounding her struggle with Histadrut chairman MK Amir Perez over these lay-offs, and extensive personal criticism.
The Bank Hapoalim affair was exacerbated when journalist Shelly Yechimovich personally lambasted Arison over the lay-offs, resulting in Arison's spokesperson responding in a similar vein.
In addition, Arison Holdings felt that the Bank of Israel was intervening in Bank Hapoalim policy. Most importantly, the Bank of Israel blocked Bank Hapoalim from using its profits to distribute a dividend, making it harder for Arison Holdings to finance its investment in the bank.
Finally, Ofer Glazer is suspected of sexual harassment. The first complaint was filed by a nurse employed by the family. More complaints followed. Glazer denies all the charges. He has not been arrested, and he was not prevented from leaving Israel. The allegations have received widespread media coverage.
Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on September 18, 2003