Brazilian-born billionaire speaks to 'Post' about plans to buy Betar

Exclusive: Aguiar: I don't see any reason for this not to go through.

By JEREMY LAST
May 6, 2009 03:16
2 minute read.
Brazilian-born billionaire speaks to 'Post' about plans to buy Betar

guma aguiar 248.88. (photo credit: Courtesy )

Brazilian-born billionaire businessman Guma Aguiar, who is seriously considering buying Israeli Premier League team Betar Jerusalem, has said he can not see any real obstacle to him taking over the club. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post by telephone from Florida on Tuesday, the 31-year-old energy magnate said he has had serious talks with Betar chairman Itzik Kornfein, who has been given permission to negotiate a deal by current owner Arkadi Gaydamak. "I don't just talk about doing deals," the Leor Energy CEO said. "Unless there's some major skeleton in the closet or Gaydamak pulls out I don't see any reason for this not to go through. According to Aguiar, who lives in Jerusalem's Yemin Moshe quarter for most of the year, Gaydamak has signed a document saying he will give up ownership of the organization on May 31, the day after the league season ends. If an owner is not found then the club will go into bankruptcy. Aguiar pulled no punches when discussing the Gaydamak years, which began in 2005 when the Russian-born businessman took control of Betar. Gaydamak has not been seen or heard from in public since leaving Israel in December after losing badly in the Jerusalem mayoral election. "I don't think Gaydamak had a proper checks and balances system put in place," he said. "I think he was using it for the wrong reasons. "If I do take over this team the purpose is to try and sanctify God's name in any possible way I can. It doesn't mean I can do it every time. I will try my hardest. I would love to bring the trophies." Aguiar was born in Rio de Janeiro and moved to the US at age two. However he had a Brazilian passion for soccer and played in a team from the age of four until he was injured at age 16 after which he turned his thoughts to tennis. "I like to refer to it as football. That was my favorite sport by far and it just runs through the blood of my family," he explained. "I used to be able to score goals from corner kicks. I was very talented as a young player." Betar has been in trouble with Israeli soccer authorities on numerous occasions over the last few years for its fans' anti-Arab chants. Aguiar claimed he is just as right wing as many of the fans but objected to the anti-Muhammad songs and suggested setting off fireworks and playing loud music to drown out the offensive chants. "There's no reason why we can't scream and go crazy and have a fantastic time without shouting 'death to the arabs'. It's just stupid," he said. The full interview will appear in Friday's sports section.


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