The owner of Israel's third-largest daily has agreed to sell the money-bleeding newspaper to the publisher of a hardline religious publication.

It is not clear whether Maariv's new publisher, Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, will bring the newspaper in line with his hawkish Makor Rishon daily or maintain its more centrist take on diplomatic issues.

Maariv is owned by cash-strapped Israeli businessman Nochi Dankner. On Sunday, Maariv said only 300 to 400 of the paper's 2,000 employees will be kept on after the $21 million deal is complete.

Maariv has been unprofitable for years.

Maariv, published since 1948, ranks third in readership behind Yediot Ahronot and Israel Hayom, the free daily supportive of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and funded by Jewish-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson.