A body believed to be that of Guma Aguiar — a Florida businessman, former backer of Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, and philanthropist who has given millions to Jewish nonprofit organizations — was found on Friday close to where his boat washed ashore in Fort Lauderdale early Wednesday morning.
Palm Beach police said the body, which was fully clothed, was now being identified. Israel’s Channel 2 news said police were investigating possible causes of death, including a “tragic accident.”
Aguiar, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based CEO of Leor Energy, was last seen around on Tuesday evening, when, according to local news reports, one of Aguiar’s employees saw him leave in his 31-foot private boat at about 7:30 p.m. The empty boat washed ashore with the engine running and navigation lights on.
In 2009, Aguiar gave $8 million to the pro-aliya group Nefesh B’Nefesh and $500,000 to March of the Living, which takes high school-aged Jews to Poland to see Holocaust sites. He also became a fixture of Israeli sports pages when he became the main sponsor of the Israeli Premier League soccer team Beitar Jerusalem.
According to Army Radio, Aguiar has suffered in recent years from emotional difficulties. In 2010, at the request of his family, he was hospitalized at Israel’s Tel Hashomer hospital, one day after claiming in an interview that he and his wife had crossed the border into Gaza and had met with then-captive soldier, Gilad Shalit.
CBS News reported that his wife, Jaimie, had expressed her concern for Aguiar’s safety, and a search was mounted by the Fort Lauderdale police and the local Coast Guard.
Aguiar, 33, whose mother is Jewish, was born in Brazil and emigrated to the United States when he was 2 years old. While the father of four did not grow up with much of a Jewish background, he later returned to Judaism and made large gifts to Jewish and Israeli causes. He made his fortune when he discovered huge natural gas reserves in Texas. When not in Florida, Aguiar also had a home in Jerusalem.