Maybe his long stay abroad during the 1980s impaired his familiarity with local standards.
In Ezra Harel's first interview to the Israeli press, he declared that if bond-holders of Rogosin (TASE:ROGO), the company he controlled under Sunday, had been "rational, not greedy an arrangement could have been reached".
Evidently, greed means something else over the oceans. Certainly Mr Harel's companies have taught investors many a bitter lesson about greed.
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange has seen many businessmen squeeze their companies and leave investors hanging. But Harel belongs to the expanding club of people who pee off the diving board do the dirty with flamboyant glee.
Harel's first public appearance was seven years ago, after his return from the U.S., where he'd wound up his career by reducing his spare parts dealership to bankruptcy. He popped up and flabbergasted the TASE by managing to sell the Israel Electric Corporation a piece of land in Ashdod for the extraordinary price of $62 million, cash.
Anybody closely following how Harel dealt with the power utility's board would have understood who he was. But many on the floor applauded his audacity and rushed to buy the bonds he scurried to issue right after the deal.
He raised NIS 80 million and began to hurl money at a bunch of completely unrelated ventures, with the assistance of Menachem (Menta) Atzmon, the former treasurer of the Likud party, better known for his role in the party's book-cooking scandal.
After five years, during which time Harel squandered most of the money he'd received from the electric company and bond-holders, the company's bonds began to collapse. That was when Harel transmitted an indirect message to investors: I feel no duty to return your money it was a company limited by shares and with me, everything is limited.
Investors figured it was a ploy. He wanted the bonds to collapse, then he'd buy them back at rock-bottom prices, and then he wouldn't have to pay back the principal.
But the scenario didn't work out. Maybe the bonds didn't drop enough, maybe Harel simply had other plans.
Three months ago Rogosin published its annual financial statement, which showed that it had NIS 30 million in its kitty, enough to make the first payment on bonds that came due yesterday.
Then in May the company advised the TASE that the cash was gone, that it didn't have the resources to pay the principal and interest on the bonds.
At that point, Rogosin's bond-holders and trustee started to threaten legal action against the company, Harel, or both. How, they fumed, did the board allow management to spend NIS 30 million when it knew perfectly well that bond payments had to be made within weeks?
Feeling the heat, Harel pulled a rabbit out of his hat: Two weeks after Rogosin said it had no resources, it announced that Harel acting through another company he controls, Lidan - would help Rogosin to raise money and meet its commitments.
Way to go, Ezra! the market applauded, knowing full well of the riches he accrued over the last ten years.
But lo, payday arrived, on Sunday, and instead of piles of shekels, bondholders were left gazing at an announcement from Harel that he'd gone on his merry way, having sold control over Rogosin to one Yochai Schneider for $100,000. You gotta problem? Talk to Yochai, have a good day and seeya later alligator! Toodle-oo!
And the money? The money he'd promised to pony up a month and a half ago? No money. You want money, talk to Yochai.
Brilliant, what can we say he sent the TASE an announcement about money-on-the-way that got the investors and the trustee off his back, while closing a deal with Yochai.
And Yochai? Will he pay? That question must have Harel and Yochai giggling helplessly. As Harel put it, "There is a tremendous difference from the perspective of investors' emotions toward a person coming to rehabilitate a company, and the person that they feel created its problem."
Ah! Now we understand. It isn't a financial question of hundreds of millions that evaporated, it's a question of emotions.
But the funniest part of Harel's show was when he explained that Yochai Schneider, who bought Malibu for $100,000, is an expert in rehab for companies. "I wouldn't be tempted to sell the company until I knew that the person taking it would be super-serious," Harel declared.
That was a super-serious rib-tickler, because we've been around for a while with an eye cocked on stocks, and we've seen super-serious Yochai in action before.
He's the guy who floated Malibu on the TASE in the gay days of the early 1990s, raising hundred of millions through issues of stocks and bonds, then lost all the money through speculative ventures. And when Malibu shares crashed, he took advantage of the situation to buy them back from the public at a laughable price. By Ezra Harel's standards, apparently, this is a person who rehabilitates companies.
Given our suspicion that we know this Harel-Schneider team, we have a tip for holders of Rogosin's bonds: keep a close eye on how Yochai heals Rogosin, how he sells its assets, for what price and to whom.
We are confident that Schneider won't want to repeat his Malibu tactics, in order to ensure that Harel or Menta Atzmon aren't among the buyers when Rogosin sells, as part of its "rehab", star assets such as areas in Germany's Rostock port.
No, Schneider wouldn't want that, because he wouldn't want some nosy journalist, or desperate bond-holder, to suspect that behind that ludicrous price of $100,000 hide a few undercover agreements not mentioned in Rogosin's laconic announcements to the TASE.