Jerusalem mayor: This is one of the most beautiful partnerships I've seen.
By ALLON SINAI, JEREMY LAST
For the second time in just over a month, Guma Aguiar was hailed as the savior of sports in Jerusalem at a press conference at the city's municipality.
Just weeks after being presented as Betar Jerusalem's knight in shining armor following his promise to transfer $4 million to the club to save it from bankruptcy, the 32-year-old energy magnate was showered with compliments once more on Monday, this time after coming to the rescue of the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team.
Aguiar agreed to give the cash-strapped club $1.5 million for the coming season. He will have an option to purchase 49 percent of the team at the end of the campaign.
"Since the last time we were in this room we've had a lot of positive feedback from the community and from all across the country," Aguiar said at Monday's press conference.
"When the mayor and I discussed the future of the city we thought about the best ways to encourage growth in the future and we agreed that sports is something positive for the community. We are happy to be able to take it one step further and increase the amount of folks who can get involved.
"Not everybody follows soccer. Basketball has a separate following and it fits in well with the plan we all have for developing the city."
Mayor Nir Barkat stressed that the club's goal is to build rather than buy. "I've seen a strong and true partnership form between the sides, which is based on the aim of stabilizing the team and ensuring it has a bright future," Barkat said.
"This is one of the most beautiful partnerships I've seen, as each side was willing to give more than the other demanded. It was clear from the start that all involved had the team's best concerns at heart."
Aguiar echoed the mayor's sentiment. "What's exciting is to build from the bottom up," he said. "That is the fun part of having a team which is the flagship of Jerusalem. It involves people from the community and isn't not just somebody's toy."
Danny Klein, who will continue as the club's chairman, was delighted that the team's future has been secured, and revealed that Hapoel would be making several signings in the coming days.
"The most important thing is that the period of uncertainty has passed," said Klein, who added that former Maccabi Tel Aviv player Tre Simmons has agreed to sign for the team, joining Leo Lyons, Yuval Naimi and Sharon Sasson on the roster.
"The team went through a difficult period in the past four months," Klein added. "The financial crisis affected us [so] I'm very happy that an agreement has been signed with Aguiar."
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