Issy Bernstein in bid to buy Betar Jerusalem

By Simon Griver, January 29, 2009

A London-based property millionaire is in negotiations to buy Israeli champions Betar Jerusalem, the JC understands.

Issy Bernstein, 77, flew to Moscow last week to meet Betar owner Arkady Gaydamak and has since instructed his lawyers in Israel to conduct due diligence examination of the club’s books.

Bernstein, who reportedly intends to emigrate to Israel, will find that the club has millions of pounds in contractual commitments to former managers and players. Last year, Bernstein showed interest in buying Maccabi Tel Aviv, although the club was eventually acquired by Canadian billionaire Alex Shnayder.

Gaydamak is likely to let the loss-making club go for free, providing the new owner takes on contractual commitments. The Russian billionaire left Israel two months ago and says that doctors have prohibited him from returning to the country due to heart problems. He faces a court hearing with several of his companies facing bankruptcy.

Gaydamak, who like many Russian oligarchs is suffering badly from the global financial crisis, decided to liquidate all his Israeli assets last September. But he pledged to remain the owner of Betar, which he acquired in 2005, and led to back-to-back championships over the past two seasons.

However, Gaydamak decided to sell the club after receiving only 7,500 votes (3.6 per cent) in the Jerusalem mayoralty elections in November.

His son Alexandre, who owns Portsmouth, has also put the Premier League club up for sale although no buyer has yet been found. However, the sale of Lassana Diarra and Jermain Defoe over the past month to Real Madrid and Spurs for £36 million will have eased the financial pressure on Gaydamak Jnr, who bought the South Coast outfit for £40 million in 2006.

Last weekend’s shock FA Cup defeat at home to Swansea puts Portsmouth manager Tony Adams under pressure, and as Pompey slip towards the relegation zone, there is again talk of Avram Grant returning to Fratton Park where he was Technical Director before moving to Chelsea.

Betar Jerusalem defender Yoav Ziv signed a two-and-a-half year deal worth 75,000 Euros with Belgium side Lokeren on Wednesday. He joins Omer Golan and Avi Sitrol at the club.

Last updated: 11:50am, February 3 2009