After six months of high-stakes poker, of raising the ante by a million a month, Shaul Elovitch had enough. He threw down his cards and threw in the towel, walking away from losses of about $30 million.
His move to establish Ofek The New World communications company hadn't begun as gamble. It just ended that way. Up to a year ago it had a clearly defined business and financing plan.
Ofek's goal was to build a domestic communications network competing with state-run monopoly Bezeq. It would use state-of-the-art wireless technology merging Internet and TV services into an enticing mélange of broadband, all financed by foreign money provided by banks, suppliers and later, the capital market.
The plan sounded great in the pre-crash world. Two years later, the company's declared goal of recruiting 2,000 people and building a broadband empire sounds like a hash dream.
The poker game commenced in deadly earnest six months ago, when the capital market collapsed and the company's chiefs realized their chances of roping in foreign money were slim. Elovitch didn't need a crystal ball to tell him that Ofek's chances of making it alone were smaller than vanishing. But the truth is, it may not be able to make it in partnership with another company either.
Anyway, Elovitch commenced an aggressive negotiation with Cellcom. At first he talked outright merger, but as time grew short, so did his negotiating clout. Finally he had to bow to the terms the powerful mobile carrier dictated: that it would rule the roost and set the strategy, including technologically.