By MARCY OSTER
NEW YORK CITY (JTA) – Eli Rozenberg, the 26-year-old son of millionaire U.S. businessman Kenny Rozenberg, has taken control of El Al Airlines, after a tumultuous debate over who should manage Israel’s flagship airline.

El Al was privatized in 2004, and since then it has struggled financially, with the coronavirus pandemic worsening the situation.

Eli Rozenberg’s $75 million bid to buy control of the airline offered a lifeline, but some in Israel argued that selling to him would amount to a circumvention of the law prohibiting non-Israelis from owning the airline. Eli Rozenberg is a resident of Israel and an Israeli citizen, but his father, who owns a nursing home chain in the United States, is not. The source of the financing for the deal is a 25-year loan from Kenny Rozenberg, Eli Rozenberg confirmed in a meeting with the El Al board of directors, the Israeli business daily Globes reported,

Critics of the deal argued that such a loan amounts to a gift and might mean that Kenny Rozenberg effectively controls the airline. But Eli Rozenberg pledged that his father had not been given any El Al shares as collateral for the loan.

The government accepted that argument and concluded that Eli Rozenberg will be the actual owner of the airline. Now that the deal has gone through, Eli Rozenberg is able to name directors and a CEO for the airline. But flights into and out of Israel are severely curtailed because of the nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, and it is unclear when normal air travel might resume.

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