Sinai Says: Haifa owner Rosen celebrates BSL championship from afar

Rosen has avoided traveling to Israel since last October, fearing he could be arrested due to a Tax Authority investigation into the club’s finances.

June 26, 2013 00:00
4 minute read.
Maccabi Haifa owner Jeff Rosen

Jeff Rosen 370. (photo credit: Maccabi Haifa website)

After six long and often arduous years the crowning moment finally arrived.

But Jeff Rosen was over 10,000 kilometers away from the party.

Maccabi Haifa won an historic BSL championship, stunning Maccabi Tel Aviv 86-79 in the final at Romema Arena two weeks ago, but legal matters meant that Haifa owner Rosen was forced to watch from afar.

Rosen has avoided traveling to Israel since last October, fearing he could be arrested or summoned to questioning as soon as he enters the country due to a Tax Authority investigation into the club’s finances.

According to the Tax Authority, besides the basic contracts signed with the players for their services, Haifa also pays some of its staff additional sums in the US in accordance to a second contract, which was not submitted in Israel.

The fact that the roster also takes part in a magazine show, Inside Israeli Basketball, which airs in nearly 40 million households across the US, could help Haifa explain why it was paying its American coach Brad Greenberg and its foreign players extra money abroad and there are ongoing negotiations between representatives of the club and the Tax Authority to settle the case.

Nevertheless, wanting to avoid the potential embarrassment of being questioned, Rosen has remained in the US, enjoying the fruits of his investment on the other side of the ocean.

“Of course I wanted to be in Israel for the final, but it was out of my control,” Rosen told me this week. “I was celebrating all night after the win.”

Rosen refused to comment on the investigation until it is concluded, but was happy to talk about Haifa’s remarkable triumph.

“It was an euphoric feeling to win the championship,” he said.

“We made history on June 13th. This was a very special team that will be remembered for a long time. I was not surprised by how our team played, because we brought in guys with a winning history. I was inspired by their will to win every given night they stepped onto the court.”

After nine years in the lower divisions, Haifa gained promotion to the top flight in Rosen’s first season as owner in 2007/08 and agonizingly missed out on silverware in the following campaign, falling to Hapoel Holon in the State Cup final and to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Final Four title game.

However, the team lost its way in subsequent seasons, going through five coaches over three campaigns and ending 2011/12 bottom of the BSL standings with a 5-19 record.

Rosen was even considering leaving Haifa for Maccabi Rishon Lezion last summer, but he ultimately continued to back the Greens and reaped the rewards.

“In one of the most incredible turnarounds ever, the key to success was that we did the little things each game that helped our team win,” he explained. “They made all the big shots when they needed to and came up with big steals and defensive plays in crunch time.”

Rosen, owner and chairman of Triangle Financial Services, who made his fortune with International of Rose Art Industries, a major manufacturer of toys, stationery and arts and crafts with annual sales of over $300 million, claimed he honestly thought Haifa would beat Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Haifa had lost all five of its previous meetings with the yellow-andblue this season, but won when it mattered most to lift its first league title.

The likes of Hapoel Holon (2008) and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (2010) also denied Maccabi the championship in recent years, but Haifa will be hoping to avoid their depressing destiny and successfully build on its glory.

The Greens will not have an easy time doing so, with Donta Smith the only foreign player under contract for 2013/14. Coach Brad Greenberg and captain Ido Kozikaro are also expected to continue, but the likes of Pat Calathes, James Thomas, Paul Stoll and Gal Mekel are all free players.

Rosen refused to elaborate on whether he will increase the club’s budget for next season, saying: “We plan on putting a competitive team on the court each and every season and we will look to return a core of the players from last year.”

There is, however, no doubt that Rosen has big plans for the club, with Haifa announcing on Tuesday that it will be taking part in the Eurocup for the first time ever next season.

“It’s another important step towards building Maccabi Haifa into a global brand,” Rosen said.

Haifa will also face NBA opponents on a preseason exhibition tour in the US for the third time in four years in October, playing the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies.

Rosen also said that he could “envision” Haifa one day participating in the Euroleague, continental basketball’s most prestigious competition, but in the meantime he is just happy to be cherishing his team’s feat, from wherever he may be.

“I don’t think about if I’ve proven anyone wrong, all of my focus is putting a competitive team on the court each and every year,” he said. ”This past season will be marked in the history books.”

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