|Type||Daily newspaper, monthly magazine, website|
TheMarker was founded in 1999 by journalist and entrepreneur Guy Rolnik along with Haaretz group and U.S.-based investors. Five years after TheMarker launched, Haaretz newspaper group decided to terminate its long-standing business section and relaunch it as a daily print newspapers called "TheMarker", the brand that was created online.
The chief editor of TheMarker is Sami Peretz. The editor of the monthly magazine is Eytan Avriel. TheMarker alone has about 250 employees. It operates from Haaretz newspaper building in Tel Aviv.
In 2006 and 2007 TheMarker and Rolnik won the 2 most important awards in marketing and business strategy for creating TheMarker, turning it into the leading brand in financial media and using an internet brand to launch a print newspaper (see "Awards").
Currently TheMarker produces a website, a daily print newspaper, a monthly print magazine and holds events on business-related issues. Some of TheMarker's articles are translated to English and appear in the English version of Haaretz in cooperation with the International New York Times.
TheMarker, founded by Rolnik and Haaretz group, was incorporated in 1999 and launched in March 2000. Joined by his two friends and co-founders - Avriel and Ido Pollak - Rolnik launched what would become the first business news website and the first online newsroom in Israel. In 2001 TheMarker started publishing a monthly print magazine, TheMarker Magazine. The magazine publishes yearly lists of "Israel's 100 most influential people" and "Israel's 500 richest people", which draw considerable attention. In 2003 started organizing business-related events under its own brand.
In 2005 Haaretz daily newspaper's economic section was terminated and Haaretz launched "TheMarker" as a daily newspaper.
Following the relaunch, the number of Haaretz's paid subscribers increased significantly: by the end of 2006, the number of paid subscribers rose to all-time high of over 60,000 and ad revenues from TheMarker's print edition grew by 50% compared to the pre-rebranding Period.
In 2008 the print edition of TheMarker became available as a stand-alone product as well.
In 2007 TheMarker launched "TheMarker Café", Israel's first social network for grown-ups and the first launched by a news organization.
TheMarker is known for its journalistic campaigns. Believing that the role of a newspaper is to push politicians into taking on powerful special interest groups, TheMarker's prolonged campaigns, usually consisting of dozens of long-form essays, articles and analyses packed with data, were able to put issues on the agenda, prime them to attract the attention of the public, regulators and politicians and present them in a way that would get support.
Over the years, the newspaper identified many of the basic structural problems in Israel's economy and society and campaigned for their reform. Some of TheMarker's campaigns were met with objection or counter-campaigns by other media outlets that are linked to big Israel business groups or political figures. Nevertheless, many of the issues TheMarker campaigned for were later incorporated into government decisions and laws.
Rolnik's profile on an independent Israeli watchdog states that "during the first decade following its founding, TheMarker was a lone journalistic voice in a line of battles against the connections between the government and powerful businesspeople and the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of few. Following the 2011 social protests, during which some of Rolnik's and TheMarker's gained wide public recognition, some other media outlets began adopting some of the ideas he led. Rolnik's and TheMarker's campaigns yielded at least seven major economic reforms: (1) the implementation of the recommendations of the Bejski Commission - ending banks' control of capital markets (2) the introduction of competition in the cellular market (3) increasing taxes on Israel's natural resources (The Sheshinski Committee) (4) preventing the bailout of tycoons with Israeli taxpayers and savers money following the 2008 financial crisis (5) the creation of Israel's Anti-Concentration Committee (6) the creation of the Strum Committee for the introduction of competition in the banking sector, and (7) exposing the corruption in both the IDB and Bank Hapoalim groups during the reign of the Dankner family, which led to their indictments, convictions and removal from their positions".
The banking sector has always been a central point of interest for TheMarker. TheMarker is particularly interested in the political power of banks and their influence on the media, political parties, experts and the business sector and the lack of competition in the banking sector itself.
1983 saw the first major banking crisis in Israel's history, "the manipulation crisis". In the years leading up to the crisis, almost all major Israeli banks manipulated their own stock prices. Eventually, in October 1983, their stock prices collapsed and pushed the whole stock market into a crash. In order to restore confidence in the financial system, the government nationalized the manipulating banks and formed an inquiry committee that was named "the Bejski Committee", after its chairman, Supreme Court judge Moshe Bejski. That crisis made Israelis wary of banks since.
Israel's banking sector has long been controlled by two major banks, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi. As of 2015, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi held each about 30% of the banking sector's total assets, or about 60% together. For many years, Israel's banks also owned the biggest money-management companies, mainly mutual funds and two other major types of saving funds that are unique to Israel ("Kupot Gemel" and "Kranot Hishtalmut"). They were also major players in securities underwriting held controlling stakes in other financial institutions, mainly insurance companies, as well as real sector companies.
A major recommendation of the Bejski Committee was that banks should not be allowed to own money-management corporations, such as mutual funds, a recommendation that banks fiercely objected to and that was not adopted at the time.
For many years, TheMarker maintained that this structure leads to a conflict of interests between the banks and their customers, significant inefficiencies, suboptimal yields for savers, higher management fees and a distortion of the allocation of capital, and campaigned for increased competition in banking by divestiture of certain assets and the addition of more players in the remaining areas. In its campaign, TheMarker reiterated its support of the Bejski Committee recommendations and used them to push then Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promote reform.
In April 2004, Netanyahu ordered the forming of a committee that was tasked with recommending steps to increase competition in the capital markets. The banks and most mainstream newspapers strongly opposed the forming of the committee. The committee's main recommendation was the same as Bejski's: to force banks to sell their money-management corporations, which most of them did almost immediately after the recommendations were enacted into law in August 2005. The three laws associated with the recommendations were confirmed in the Knesset with overwhelming majority.
Following the divestitures, the new, non-bank, owners of the money-management corporations increased management fees considerably, only to decrease them later to the pre-reform levels. The proceeds from the sales also helped Israeli banks whether the global 2007-2008 financial crisis.
The reform significantly increased the stream of non-bank credit to the Israeli business sector. According to Bank of Israel data, following the reform, between December 2004 and December 2009, non-bank credit to the business sector almost doubled - from 167 billion shekels to 342 billion shekels, while bank credit increased 10%.
Following the Financial crisis of 2007-2008, which exposed the vulnerability of Israel's biggest corporations and their interdependence, TheMarker started campaigning against the concentration of economic and political power in few businesspeople who control many big corporations that span many areas of activity. In these articles, those businesspeople were described as "tycoons", a term that became to bear resemblance to "Robber barons".
TheMarker repeatedly pointed out to the level of concentration and its dangers and to the pyramidal structure of many of Israel's big business conglomerates and called for dismantling them.
In October 24, 2010, Prime Minister Netanyahu formed "The Committee on Increasing Competitiveness in the Economy", better known as "The Concentration Committee". As some of its leading members left, the committee's work almost came to a halt. But following the July 2011 wave of social protests, which adopted TheMarker's fight against concentration, Netanyahu appointed new members and the committee handed its final recommendations in February 2012.
Following the recommendations, on December 9, 2013, the Israel's Knesset approved "The Law for Promotion of Competition and Reduction of Concentration", better known as "The Anti-Concentration Law", with no objections and included both coalition and opposition parties: 42 coalition Knesset members and 30 opposition Knesset members voted for the law, an extremely rare result in the Knesset's history.
The law's two main features were to limit the ability to control corporations via a pyramidal structure and forcing a separation between significant financial corporations and significant non-financial corporations.
The law and TheMarker's campaign met with strong objection from many Israeli newspapers, but was commended by the global press. In a January 7, 2014, New York Times article titled "Overhaul of Israel's Economy Offers Lessons for United States" Steven Davidoff wrote that "with a single bill and a few big changes in its corporate law, Israel is looking to overhaul its economy and hopefully reduce income inequality". An October 15, 2015 article in Financial Times stated that: "...it is the role that the business newspaper TheMarker has played in Israel in exposing the effect on the national economy of the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few billionaires".
In relation to the campaign against concentration, TheMarker wrote extensively about small groups whose members were connected to power and resources. Those included, among others, people with connections to the top political parties, people who worked at Israel's biggest state-owned and private monopolies, such as Israel Electric Corporation and the major banks and many salaried military personnel employed in non-combative positions. The people enjoyed good wages, job security and generous retirement plans, were able to maintain their power regardless of how the economy was doing and, in many cases, pass these privileges onto their children via nepotistic practices.
In many articles, TheMarker characterized and identified this groups, stressing that all their privileges are earned at the expenses of "the unconnected" - the vast majority of Israelis. And lust like the tycoons, the connected were able to control much more economic and political power than their share in the population would imply.
Danny Dankner is a member of a family with deep and historic roots in Israel's business sector. In 1997 his family was part of a group that bought the controlling stake in Bank Hapoalim. His family later sold its stake, but Dankner remained on the bank's board of directors and was named the chairman in 2007.
The financial crisis of 2007-2008, that occurred when Dankner was chairman, exposed many ill-fated decisions made by the bank as well as private transactions that Dankner made and were considered dubious. Some were self-dealings, such as a transaction involving Bank Hapoalim, a Turkish bank and an Israeli-owned fund that transacted with a publicly-traded company co-controlled by Dankner; and a loan made to Dankner by Bank Hapoalim. It was also later revealed that Danny Dankner secretly owed 60 million shekels (approx. $17 million) to his cousin, Nochi Dankner, who was at the time the strongest businessman in Israel.
In April 2009, TheMarker reported that the then Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, met secretly with Shari Arison, the controlling shareholder of Bank Hapoalim, and demanded that she remove Danny Dankner from his position, saying that he lost confidence in Dankner following a string of apparent failures. Arison refused. Following the meeting and Arison's refusal, TheMarker with supported Fischer unequivocally while most other major newspapers took Arison's side and condemned Fischer's request. Eventually, on June 1, 2009, Dankner handed his resignation to Bank Hapoalim's board.
Later, Dankner was charged, and finally convicted, in two separate cases, one related to his tenure at Bank Hapoalim. Nochi Dankner was also convicted. In November 2012, he was arrested on suspicions regarding securities-related issues regarding a February 2012 share issue by the conglomerate he controlled and ran, IDB Holdings - a story TheMarker broke. In June 2014 he was formally indicted, in July 2016 he was found guilty of all charges and on December 5, 2016, he was sentenced to two years in prison. In his efforts to fight TheMarker and influence regulators' positions regarding concentration, in March 2011, Nochi Dankner's IDB bought Maariv, a daily newspaper. 18 months later the newspaper went bankrupt.
In January 2009, a huge natural gas field, Tamar, was found about 90 kilometers (approx. 55 miles) west of the Israeli city of Haifa. Later, a few more huge fields were discovered in other parts of the Mediterranean within Israel's Exclusive economic zone.
These discoveries prompted a re-examination of Israel's energy-related taxes with an intent to raise them from their existing levels. TheMarker's position was that Israel should raise the taxes to levels that would be at par with other nations.
In order to handle the situation, the then Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz formed a committee headed by renowned economist prof. Eytan Sheshinski. The committee published its final recommendations in January 2011. The recommendations indeed meant that the state's share of the revenues would be greater than in the existing law. On March 2011, the Knesset passed the law that effectively adopted the committee's recommendations and raised taxing significantly. The law was confirmed with a significant majority: 78 Knesset members voted for it while only 2 objected.
Starting in 2004, TheMarker pushed for increased competition in the cellular market by lowering Termination rates, the fees charged by cellular providers for connecting calls from other providers, and failed to push communication ministers in this direction. In March 2009 Moshe Kahlon became the new Minister of Communications and TheMarker encouraged him to introduce competition into the market and supported him in his efforts as other newspapers opposed it.
The two major pieces in Kahlon's reform were introducing Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) and allowing more players to import phones. The first MVNO to operate, on December 5, 2011, was Rami Levy Communications. The MVNOs offered monthly bundles that were priced much lower than the average monthly bills offered by the incumbent providers, which resulted in a significant fall in monthly bills and a significant fall in the incumbents' Average Revenue per User (ARPU). For example, while Partner's monthly average ARPU in 2006-2008 was 161 shekels, by 2015 it fell to 69 shekels. According to a Ministry of Finance paper, the reform resulted in 17.5 billion shekels (approximately 4.6 billion dollars) of total economy savings up to 2014. In a May 2012 TheMarker conference Kahlon said (in Hebrew): "This is the place to admit that, along with TheMarker, we led the opening of the cellular market to competition. They (TheMarker) set the direction".
On July 14, 2011, a small group of demonstrators set up tents on the north end of Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, protesting the high prices of rents. Shortly after that they were joined by hundreds, and later thousands, more protesters who occupied more streets in Tel Aviv and other cities. By then, their protest expanded to the high cost of living and low pay for many professionals. Their slogan was "the people demands social justice". Its peak came in September 3, 2011, when about half a million protesters went to the streets in many cities across the country.
At first, most Israeli media covered the protests extensively thereby amplifying them. But once it became clear that the protesters were demanding a new economic and social order, some major newspapers cut back on their coverage. In an August 28, 2016, article in HaAyin HaShevi'it, an Israeli media watchdog, interviewed a former editor of a leading news outlet who said: "We watched with horror how the social protests were inflated and promoted out of proportion when they erupted and when the fire was directed at Prime Minister Netanyahu - and how, at its peak, as the protesters focused on the powerful businesspeople (and indirectly also to the mainstream press) it was dwarfed".
TheMarker, identifying the many similarities between the protesters' agenda and its own views, supported them throughout.
In late 2011, a few months after the wave of social protests, TheMarker published a series of articles on three Nordic states - Finland, Sweden and Denmark - and their brand of economic order, mostly known as The Nordic Model, which is based on a combination of pro-market capitalism, welfare state policies and inclusive collective bargaining. The articles portrayed the countries that are characterized by competition along with a deep regard of humanistic values, whose citizens seem happy with the way things are and enjoy a high standard of living.
The series was met with much enthusiasm with readers and its articles were some of the most-read in TheMarker's history. On February 2, 2013, The Economist issued a Special Report on the Nordic countries, "Northern Lights", in which it wrote that "the Nordic countries are probably the best-governed in the world".
Like others in Israel, the food industry is characterized by big players - both retailers and suppliers.
According to a Dun & Bradstreet report, in 2014, the three top retail chains - Shufersal, Mega Retail and Rami Levy Hashikma Marketing - held together 62% of the market. In July 2016, Bitan Wines, whose 2014 share was 8%, bought Mega Retail, which made the market even more concentrated. According to the Dun and Bradstreet report, then top 4 food manufacturers - Tnuva, The Central Bottling Co. (Coca-Cola Israel), Strauss and Osem - held a combined market share of 62% of the top 13 food manufacturers.
On March 19, 2014, following TheMarker's campaign, which gained impetus following the July 2011 social protests, the Knesset approved, with no objections, a law for the promotion of competition in the food market. The law aims to increase competition by limiting the market influence of major chains and suppliers and by affording smaller suppliers with bigger and more prominent shelf space.
The April 2004 committee forced banks to sell their money-management corporations. Later, the Anti-Concentration Law imposed a strict ownership separation between financial and non-financial holdings; the removal of Danny Dankner from Bank Hapoalim and his subsequent conviction sent a clear message regarding corporate governance and criminal activities and liabilities; and the capping of bankers' pay delineated what was accepted and what was rejected. But another aspect of the banking system was still left unchanged: the big banks' control of the credit card business.
In September 1, 2016, also following a two-year campaign by TheMarker and with its backing, a committee created by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and the Bank of Israel's Governor Dr. Karnit Flug, recommended that Israel's two biggest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, sell their credit card companies and that new competitors be set up to compete against banks in the credit markets.
The Natural Gas Outline is the name given to Prime Minister Netanyahu's government's decision from August 16, 2015, in which it set rules for the exploitation of the country's gas files, which are privately owned.
The decision came after intense discussions within the government ministries. On May 25, 2015, the director of Israel's Antitrust Authority, who strongly opposed the apparent outline, resigned in protest. Also, in order to pass the outline, Netanyahu took the position of Minister of Economy so he could make the necessary decision that the previous minister refused to make.
Following the discovery of the Tamar gas field in January 2009, a few other fields were discovered, the largest of which is Leviathan (July 2010). These are Israel's two biggest gas fields. As of 2015, Leviathan was estimated at 21,934.5 billion cubic feet (BCF) (2C estimate of total reserves) and Tamar was estimated at 10,260.3 BCF (2P estimate of total reserves).
Netanyahu's outline drew fierce criticism, especially by TheMarker, regarding two major components of the outline: "the stability clause", that promised the owners that the government would not initiate laws that would change the taxation of their profits for 10 years; and the price that the outline promised the owners, $5.4 per million British Thermal Unit (BTU).
TheMarker argued that the stability clause unconstitutional as it prevented future governments from governing by creating laws. TheMarker also argued that the price was not competitive, pointing to the falling global prices of natural gas. In August 2015, the government agency in charge of the electricity market issues a report that stated the outline would be equal to a "7.3 million shekels fine" on the Israeli public (approx. 1.9 billion dollars). Following that report, Netanyahu fired the agency's director. Following the outline and Netanyahu's handling of the controversies, a few demonstrations and rallies were held, the largest of which took place on November 14, 2015, in Tel Aviv.
On March 27, 2016, Israel's Supreme Court rejected the August 16, 2015, outline, criticizing the "stability clause", saying that it "overstepped the boundaries of what can be done in a democracy" and allowed the government a year to amend the outline.
On May 22, 2016, the government issued a new outline which, according to Netanyahu, addressed the Supreme Court's concerns. Five days later, On May 27, Avi Gabai, who also opposed the outline, resigned from his position as the Minister of Environmental Protection.
On November 23, 2016, a District court judge ruled that it will proceed with a class action against the owners of the Tamar gas field regarding the price they charge Israel Electric Corporation for gas, thus bringing the price issue back into court.
Since its inception, TheMarker has been a fierce critic of both illegal and legal corruption and frequently wrote about the strongest Israeli politicians, both from the left and the right, among them former Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson, former Minister of Industry, Trade & Labour Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and current Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Olmert and Hirschson were the first Israeli former Prime Minister and former Finance Minister, respectively, to be convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to prison. Ben-Eliezer was indicted in December 2015. He died in August 2016, while his trial was still underway.
Ariel Sharon was suspected of corruption twice. In 2001 it was alleged that Israeli businessman and political operator David Appel bribed Sharon by paying Sharon's son, Gilad Sharon, hundreds of thousands of dollars for a consulting Appel on a project Gilad Sharon was believed to have no real expertise in (the "Greek island affair"). In June 2004, the Attorney General ruled that there was no evidence to support the claims. In 2002, a State Comptroller report raised the suspicion that South African businessman and a longtime friend of Sharon Cyril Kern helped Sharon repay illegal contributions to a 1999 campaign by making a $1.5 million loan to Sharon's sons, Gilad Sharon and Omri Sharon, the original source of the money being Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff (the "Cyril Kern affair"). The police recommended indicting Gilad Sharon and Omri Sharon, but in 2013 the case was dropped because of difficulties in interrogating Schlaff in Austria and because Ariel Sharon fell into a coma in early 2006 and could not be interrogated.
Schlaff is well connected to three other top Israeli politicians who were suspected of corruption, Lieberman, Olmert, and Aryeh Deri, who was convicted and sentenced to prison in 2000 on an issue unrelated to Schlaff.
Lieberman was suspected of being paid millions of shekels in bribes by Russian-Israeli businessman Michael Cherney between 1999 and 2009. Also, approximately 7 million shekels, were paid from foreign accounts to a company founded by Lieberman's daughter in 2004, when she was 21. The company paid high salaries to both Lieberman and his daughter. In December 2012, years after it landed on his desk, the then Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, decided to close the case because the time that passed had weakened the evidence.
TheMarker is also a constant critic of the finances of the Israeli military (IDF).
For many decades, the Israeli Defense Ministry's budget has been the biggest of all the government's ministries. Since the early 2000s, the share of expenses on defense stands at about 9% of Israeli GDP. In 2015, the Israeli Defense Ministry's actual budget was 62 billion shekels (approx. $16 billion).
As it is mostly secret and hidden from public scrutiny, TheMarker argues, the budget helps conceal - and even encourage - inefficiencies and corruption. One major issue TheMarker follows closely is personnel remuneration - wages and benefits, and especially pension schemes. TheMarker contends that the military should differentiate between combat-related wages and wages paid to personnel who occupy civilian-like positions, especially those who serve close to home; and that the army should stop providing its personnel with pensions that are wholly paid by the defense budget ("budgetary pensions") and reveal the true existing commitments toward the existing budgetary pensions.
TheMarker also argues that the finances of the defense budget are almost never part of the public discourse, as well as the effect the economic and geopolitical changes should have on the defense budget.
It is also the position of TheMarker that the defense budget creates a caste of former top officers that are paid considerable sums for consulting and brokerage fees and that the budget helps keep alive many defense-related industries that would otherwise be considered inefficient and discontinued.
Over the years, TheMarker, separately and together with Rolnik, won several awards for journalistic as well as marketing achievements.
Four of the awards were related to the January 2005 launch of TheMarker as a daily paid for newspaper:
Some of the most notable personal awards Rolnik won for his journalistic achievements include:
In May 2004, HaAyin HaShevi'it interviewed journalists, business people and media experts in Israel. Almost all of them expressed the view that Rolnik is Israel's most influential columnist and the best economic journalist in Israel. "Rolnik writes the most important economic column in Israel, he has no competition. As a member of boards and committees I hear very often people talking about what Rolnik wrote this morning. People read his daily column avidly and with fear. There is no other journalist in Israel that has such position in his field - he is the master of the domain... When he mentions a person or a phenomenon in his column - its value will go up". A senior executive in the media industry was quoted: "Rolnik is the most influential economics journalist in Israel, I read every word he writes. Unlike other journalists he manages to surprise me time and again because his position is so unpredictable".
In February 2011, The New Yorker's editor, David Remnick, published a story about Haaretz and Schocken, saying "Under the leadership of a young, hyper-ambitious editor named Guy Rolnik, TheMarker brought a new, more youthful audience to Haaretz -- one at least as interested in the high-tech industry as it is in the Palestinian issue -- just as the worldwide newspaper crisis hit. TheMarker, which can be bought separately, has helped save the paper. Rolnik has been especially good at publishing investigative pieces on what he calls the 'Israeli oligarchs,' a small group of billionaires and their families who control much of the national economy".
In March 2015, journalist and media critic Michael Massing highlighted the work done by TheMarker and Rolnik in an essay "How to fix American Journalism" that appeared in the special issue of The Nation magazine for its 150th anniversary. According to Massing, the unique campaign that waged Rolnik as editor-in-chief of TheMarker is the model for fixing American journalism: "TheMarker, an Israeli financial newspaper distributed as a supplement to Haaretz, waged an unflagging campaign beginning in the mid-2000s against the extraordinary concentration of economic power in Israel and the dangers that this development posed to Israeli society and democracy. Led by its founding editor, Guy Rolnik, the paper ran periodic stories and columns that paid special attention to the "Israeli oligarchs," a small group of billionaires and their families who controlled much of the Israeli economy. When the campaign began, the subject of economic concentration was barely discussed in Israel. The stories fed growing outrage over inequality, leading to a series of mass demonstrations in 2011. Those protests, in turn, spurred the Knesset to pass a bill to break up the Israeli conglomerates. It was a remarkable display of how one news organization, through tenacious and unflinching reporting over a period of years, can help spur systemic change ... Remarkably, of the many high-profile digital-journalism sites--the Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, Business Insider--not one scrutinizes America's oligarchs the way TheMarker did Israel's. ProPublica, the prime investigative site on the web, has done impressive reporting on a number of important subjects, including fracking and the secret Fed tapes, but in general it remains wedded to a traditional narrow-focus approach".