Aguiar now sets his sights on Hapoel Jerusalem

Betar's new sponsor envisions 'strategic relationship' between capital's top soccer and hoops clubs.

Aguiar 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy of Yossi Zeliger )
Aguiar 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy of Yossi Zeliger )
Not content with just becoming the main sponsor of the previously struggling Betar Jerusalem soccer team, American businessman Guma Aguiar is now attempting to go one step further, positioning himself as the main man in Jerusalem sports by entering into serious negotiations to buy the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball club. Aguiar, 32, said on Wednesday that he is currently in discussions with Hapoel chairman Danny Klein regarding a takeover deal, which could be completed within the coming days. "We're working on exactly how the structure is going to look," Aguiar told The Jerusalem Post. "I'm not going to get involved unless I have control. I want to buy the club. I want to figure out a way to control it and make it successful. I know if I'm in charge it will be successful." It has been less than a month since Aguiar announced his $4 million sponsorship of Betar and his intention to eventually take full ownership from Arkadi Gaydamak. And in recent weeks, the Brazilian-born energy magnate has shown his intentions by standing with the fans at a Toto Cup game and then providing enough funds for Betar to operate within an atmosphere of financial stability. Now he is hoping to do the same with Hapoel, a team which has found itself in an unstable financial situation, partly due to the alleged broken promises of Gaydamak, who apparently reneged on promises of funding. "The state of play at the moment is that we are in the process of doing due diligence," Aguiar explained. "The process is much cleaner than it was at Betar. Danny [Klein] is running this organization as a serious professional as opposed to the way Betar's management team was working in the past." Over the last decade, Hapoel Jerusalem has become one of the top teams in Israeli basketball, finishing runner up to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the BSL in 2006 and 2007 and winning the State Cup in 2007 and 2008. Last season, there was a lack of success as Hapoel was ousted in the semifinals of both the State Cup and the end-of-season BSL Final Four. While Aguiar was quick to stress that he understands the difference between Hapoel and Betar as sports groups, he said he is interesting in forming a "strategic relationship" between the capital's major soccer and basketball organizations. "I see a strategic relationship with someone like Danny Klein and his mind working together with [Betar Jerusalem chairman] Itzik [Kornfein] to make the sporting community successful," Aguiar said, adding that he has already discussed the idea with Kornfein. Aguiar was first introduced to the concept of getting involved with Hapoel Jerusalem by former Betar player and current Channel One soccer commentator Danny Neuman back in May and June when he was discussing his plans for Betar. He then spoke to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat about the option. "I'd thought about [getting involved with Hapoel] and had been looking at it for a long time. They need help, and it's time to rescue them. I'll try and get them out of trouble and put a team on the court," he explained. Aguiar said he is still in discussions over the specifics but he expects the running costs of the basketball team to be far less than those of Betar, estimating that he will not have to pay much to buy the club and will put in around $2m. for the coming season. "It's more of a financial obligation for the future than about how much it costs to buy the club," Aguiar said. "It's about guaranteeing an operating budget. I want to give them the same sort of thing as I did to Betar. Give them some life."