Bezeq Appoints Acting CEO During Probe

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) -

Bezeq Israel Telecom said on Wednesday it has named Yaakov Paz as interim chief executive for at least the next month while CEO Stella Handler remained under police investigation.

Paz, 54, is a vice president and head of Bezeq’s business division. His appointment came at a special board meeting.

Handler was arrested last week in connection with an investigation into allegations that included fraud, bribery and securities offenses. She was released from police custody on Monday but remains under house arrest until March 4. A court ordered she stay away from Bezeq for 30 days.

Eurocom unit B Communications (BCom), Bezeq’s parent, called this week for an emergency board meeting to propose former Bezeq Chairman Shlomo Rodav and Doron Turgeman, CEO of Eurocom subsidiary Internet Gold, as board members.

A group of investors led by U.S.–Israeli businessman Naty Saidoff has proposed biotechnology executive Tamir Cohen as a board member. The group has made an offer to buy Eurocom, which has been accepted by Eurocom’s creditors and submitted to court for approval.

Activist investor Elliot Advisors, which owns 4.8 percent of Bezeq and which has lobbied for changes to the board, has opposed BCom’s proposals for new board members, saying it had no legal basis.

“The sole purpose of the BCom demand is to cause you, the board of directors of Bezeq, to act for the benefit of the controlling shareholder, against the best interests of the company, its shareholders and the law,” Elliot’s lawyers wrote in a letter to board members.

It called for directors who are “professional and objective” to be elected to the board at the annual meeting, which it said should be called promptly.

Bezeq said its board was studying the letter and at this stage was unable to address it.

In another development related to the case, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Wednesday accepted the recommendation of the state ombudsman and ordered disciplinary action against the judge who has been accused of colluding with state officials.

In a joint statement, Shaked and High Court President Esther Hayut said an official complaint against Judge Ronit Poznansky-Katz would be filed and a special tribunal held to determine disciplinary measures against her, which could range from an official reprimand to dismissal.