Office Depot was having difficulty making their formula for success work in Israel. In November 2013, the Israeli chain entered liquidation. The chain was originally owned and run by Mashbir, but was then bought by Avi Malka who operated it as The New Office Depot. Malka was unsuccessful at running the chain and the Israeli stores were bought by The Retail Group 3000, owned by Ronen Levy, after it entered a stay of proceedings for the second time.
Rani Zim bought half the shares in the group and became partner. The chain has 32 outlets and employs 650 people and has operated in Israel for more than twenty years. Despite the troubles, it seemed like a good investment that would pay off with time.
The present owners are angry at Naftali Bennet and not afraid to show it. Their attorney, Shlomo Ness explains that when they acquired the chain, they were promised 3.5 million NIS from the government for training employees. Ronen Levy claims, “”The Ministry of the Economy, the Ministry of Finance, and the National Insurance Institute made promises to us. Everyone lent a hand, and appeared in the headlines as saving jobs. They led us on for a year. I contacted the Ministry of the Economy today and said that unless we get the aid, we’ll make a commotion. We sat quietly, they gave us approval, and it has been going back and forth between the Ministry of the Economy and the National Insurance Institute. We sent a letter to Bennett through our legal adviser asking him to contact us by 5 PM and let us know where it stands. Retail Group 3000 now has 2,160 employees, and if they don’t give us the aid, we might send all of them home. We’ll lay off all of them, and the state will pay them. It will cost the state 400 million NIS.”
Levy states that he relied on the promises from the state, and therefore took a 3.5 million NIS one-year loan from Bank HaPoalim in order to acquire Office Depot.
“They promised me that the money would arrive within three months. Just to make sure, I got financing for a year, but I didn’t believe that we wouldn’t have the money after a year. We’ve been warning for a month that the loan repayment date was nearing, and they’re still playing ping pong with us. Now we’ll see, if I don’t make national insurance payments for one of the workers, whether I’ll get a demand for payment with a fine within 24 hours. Now I have to sell two apartments to repay the money. That’s a private injection of cash.”
Levy also threatened that if the aid money is not forthcoming, “I’ll file a personal lawsuit against everyone who promised to give us the aid, including former Minister of Finance Yair Lapid, Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett, and National Insurance Institute director general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef.”