Betar Jerusalem finds its financial saviors

Embattled owner Arkadi Gaydamakhands capital club to American businessmen Dan Adler, Adam Levin.

Itzik Kornfein_311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Itzik Kornfein_311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
A new era has dawned on Betar Jerusalem.
After six years, embattled owner Arkadi Gaydamak is on his way out, having agreed to sell the club to American businessmen Dan Adler and Adam Levin on Thursday.
Adler and Levin first showed interest in buying the club more than a month ago, but insisted that their names would remain secret, in the interest of moving negotiations forward.
Betar chairman Itzik Kornfein, who had been put in charge of finding a new owner for the club by Gaydamak, flew out to London earlier this week to meet Adler and Levin and put the finishing touches to the deal.
Betar’s new owners are not expected to transfer a single shekel to Gaydamak, but they will pay his creditors an estimated $400,000 they are owed by the oligarch.
Adler and Levin will also need to fork out around NIS 10 million to balance Betar’s budget for the upcoming season, without taking into account the extra money they will need to spend if they intend on significantly strengthening the side.
“Adler and Levin are coming to invest in the team and they are coming for a long time,” Kornfein said upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport on Thursday. “These are good people who are going to give of themselves for the good of the club. They understand the potential of Betar and its greatest asset – the fans.”
Kornfein, who is set to remain in his position as chairman, had threatened earlier this week that Betar would have to go into liquidation if it failed to find more income sources immediately, with Gaydamak refusing to funnel any more funds into the club.
However, thanks to Adler and Levin, Betar avoided the nightmare scenario, and its fans can now dream of a bright future.
“Levin and Adler have stressed that they see Betar as a brand through which they can promote Israel’s and Jerusalem’s image throughout the world,” a Betar press release read. “As Zionist Jews, they have decided to invest whatever it takes so that Betar will return to its status as a leading team in Israeli soccer.
“Their investment in Betar is a long-term one and they don’t consider it a business investment.”
Adler is the founder and principal of Media Eagles, which provides high-level strategic thinking to a wide range of Hollywood and global clients.
He started off as a trainee in Creative Artists Agency’s mailroom in 1986 before helping build CAA’s early initiatives in the new media field.
He moved on to spend several years as a VP of Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering before rejoining CAA.
Earlier this year, he was a Democratic candidate in the special election for Representative of California’s 36th Congressional District, but only received 0.5 percent of the vote.
Adler is involved in a wide range of charitable and political causes, serving on the boards of directors of Ryman Arts, the Israel Policy Forum, and the Aleph Society, as well as being a member of the American Jewish Committee’s National Board of Governors.
Levin is the CEO of Criterion Capital Partners, a global Internet company best known for owning the social network Bebo, having bought it from AOL for a reported $10 million last year.
Thursday’s news brings an end to six extremely tumultuous years under Gaydamak.
In August 2005, Gaydamak was hailed as a savior after buying Betar and promising to turn it into the top club in the country.
He put his money where his mouth was, and with a budget more than double and sometimes even three times that of its closest rivals, Betar soon dominated the Premier League.
After big-name coaches Luis Fernandez and Ossie Ardiles disappointed, the unheralded Yossi Mizrahi led the club to its first championship under Gaydamak in 2006/07.
He was sacked not long after in typical Gaydamak style however, and Itzhak Schum led the side to the league and cup double in 2007/08.
However, he too didn’t last long and was fired following the team’s failure to reach the Champions League group stage in 2008/09.
Reuven Atar guided the side to the cup at the end of the season, but Betar’s financial situation changed dramatically ahead of the following campaign, with Gaydamak deciding to stop funding the club and putting Kornfein in charge of all matters.
Guma Aguiar saved Betar from bankruptcy in the summer of 2009 by giving the club $4 million, but he had to be admitted to the Abarbanel Psychiatric Hospital a few months later after his mental health deteriorated, leaving Kornfein to search for help elsewhere.
That search came to an end on Thursday, with Adler and Levin buying the club and announcing that they are here to stay.