Israeli-Russian businessman Arcadi Gaydamak announced Sunday that he was severing ties with the capital’s soccer team, Beitar Jerusalem, after seven years of ownership. Gaydamak is essentially giving the team away, asking for nothing from new buyers but to pay off the team’s substantial debts.
“Mr. Gaydamak is proud of being part of the illustrious club for many years, during which he lovingly invested a generous ammount of NIS 378,886,000, which brough the team to impressive results,” read a statement by Gaydamak. “At this time Mr. Gaydamak can no longer afford the expenses that the club demands and out of respect for the club and its fans, is bowing out to make room for other investors to replace him.”
Club chairman Itzik Kornfein will oversee the team’s operations until a new owner steps forward.
Gaydamak purchased the club shortly after exploding onto the Israeli scene in the middle of the last decade, amid a slew of business and philanthropic ventures. At one time Gaydamak had attempted to run for mayor of Jerusalem, hoping his support of the city’s beloved football club would earn him popularity among voters.
In recent years Gaydamak has stopped residing full time in Israel and has scaled back his involvement with the team.
Gaydamak’s stint as owner was characterized by frequent coach replacements and fluctuations in the rankings. The highlight of his years as owner was in the 2007/8 season, when Beitar won both the national league and the Israeli Cup.
In recent years the team has become more famous for its unruly fans than for its performance on the playing field. The fans regularly chant anti-Arab slogans at games and earlier this year, several were arrested after they stormed the Malha Mall, near the team’s home stadium, and brawled with Arab workers there.