Do you know Amos Mar Haim?
If you play the Israeli capital market, you do, that's for sure. Having held just about every public office possible, he's baaaaaack in the headlines, this time as deputy chairman of
Mar Haim was appointed vice chairman of Rogosin at the beginning of July, by its new controlling shareholder, Yochai Schneider.
Schneider had just bought control over the company from Ezra Harel for a paltry $100,000. He apparently had good reason to appoint Mar Haim to the plum job of acting chairman of a company operating under the threat of liquidation. He also knew that Mar Haim was the only director except for the external ones who stayed on board when he took over.
On Sunday Schneider quit his job as chairman of Rogosin, after refusing to sign its second-quarter (first-half) financial statements. After burrowing through its books, Schneider found a few details that he didn't want to legitimize with his signature. All were details predating his tenure, before he had bought the company from Ezra Harel.
This was exactly the kind of situation for which Mar Haim had been named vice chairman.
But why are the details that preclude Schneider from signing the Q2 statement, not bothering Mar Haim?
The answer may lie in Mar Haim's versatile career in the public eye.
In the mid-1990s, Mar Haim served as a director for
Gibor Sport Holdings (TASE:
), chairman of the board of the Central Securities Corporation, a board member of the state-controlled Zim shipping company, of
Israel Chemicals (TASE:
), of the state-run Oil Refineries, of the Keter plastics empire, of
Arad Towels (TASE:
Ormat Industries (TASE:
), and of
). Altogether, naturally. For dessert, he also served as deputy chairman of
The Israel Corporation (TASE:
), chairman of the public companies association, acting mayor of the City of Jerusalem in the real mayor's absence, and chairman of the Postal Authority. To the last position Mr Mar Haim devoted three hours a week, for which he received a chauffeur and a salary of NIS 20,000 a month.
According to reports from Rogosin, today too Mar Haim serves in multiple jobs at numerous companies, including
(AMEX:AIP), Alrov, Keter, as chairman of Migdal Underwriting and Business Promotion,
) (agriculture), chairman of Atara an investment group belonging to the
The Israel Phoenix Assurance Company (TASE:
) - and, as we said, he serves as a director for Rogosin.
Mar Haim apparently can't rest easy unless he's serving in some capacity or other in at least eight publicly traded companies. That much is clear.
But the question is why do the companies hire him? Is his contribution so substantial?
Maybe, but what's sure is that his presence on the board is convenient to the companies' owners. Take the events in 1996 surrounding the JOEL-Passport oil exploration group, which had been controlled by Joe Elmaliach, Mar Haim's old buddy from school. According to a prospectus the group published, Mar Haim who served as a director at both JOEL and Passport received $4,000 a month over five years, for consulting services to the group.
What advice he gave may never be known, but what is known is that Elmaliach managed to secure double-digit millions of shekels from investors while withdrawing handsome pay from his companies, with the approval of his old school chum, Amos Mar Haim.
It isn't surprising that Ezra Harel would want somebody so accommodating on his board of directors. When recruiting Mar Haim, Harel couldn't anticipate that he'd be the one to approve financial statements that Schneider refused to sign. The statements Amos Mar Haim, who was convicted of evading NIS 2 million-plus in taxes during the 1990s, are signing may prove to be a sob-story for Rogosin's bond-holders, but the dry numbers certainly won't tell the real story behind the scenes.