An agreement was reached on Wednesday to sell the Beitar Jerusalem football club, after securing additional funding to deal with its large financial debt.
Current owner Moshe Hogeg has signed a deal with former Bnei soccer club owner Yehuda Barak Abramov, after key help from former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat.
The three had met at the home of Barkat, now a Likud party Knesset member, as he worked to raise funds to facilitate the deal, eventually raising 2 million shekels ($600,000), apparently from a South African donor.
“First of all, I want to thank Nir Barkat who worked night and day to save Beitar Jerusalem and managed to get 2 million shekels,” Abramov said in a statement. “I will do everything to save Beitar and allow them to return to the path of victory.
Key to the process, law enforcement officials, who are currently investigating Hogeg’s dealings, allowed the deal to come to fruition. The Jerusalem Municipality has also drawn up a plan to help fund the club in the years to come.
However, there remained an additional hurdle to prevent the club from being kicked out of Israel’s Premier League, as they faced a midday deadline to submit their annual budget to the Israel Football Association.
After the sale was completed, the club requested a 24-hour extension so they could complete the budget documents, which was later granted.
יוצאים לדרך חדשה. pic.twitter.com/e1Jb1yv0is
— Beitar Jerusalem FC (@fcbeitar) August 10, 2022
On Tuesday, Abramov briefly backed out of the deal due to the team’s financial troubles. Hogeg then held a press conference during which he pleaded with fans and the general public to help with the sale, saying only several million more shekels were needed for it to go ahead.
Hogeg was arrested late last year on suspicion of sex crimes and cryptocurrency fraud. He was held for almost a month before being released under house arrest on bail and other financial guarantees amounting to about 70 million shekels (over $20 million) in total.
The club fell on hard times due to an unprecedented economic crisis that led to a debt of around 30 million shekels (approximately $8.8 million).
Hogeg, whose accounts have been confiscated by police as the investigation into his alleged fraud continues, has been unable to pay the debts, raising the possibility of full bankruptcy.
He insisted on Tuesday that he had tried to sell Beitar before his arrest, saying his disagreements with fans over their opposition to his signing of Muslim players and attempts to sell the club to an Emirati owner had ultimately become impassable.
Beitar is one of the most famous franchises in the country, counting Israeli presidents and prime ministers among its fans.
But it also drew negative attention for many years for being the only major club never to have an Arab player, and for racism from some hardcore fans.
In particular, a group of diehards called La Familia engaged in racist behavior during matches.