Soccer-Beitar Jerusalem saved by U.S. investors

JERUSALEM, July 14 Thu Jul 14, 2011 10:23pm BST

JERUSALEM, July 14 (Reuters) - Israeli premier league club Beitar Jerusalem have been sold to new owners and saved from administration, the club's chief executive said on Thursday.

Itzik Kornfein, the man appointed by Beitar's Russian-born billionaire owner for the past six seasons to run the club, told reporters after returning from London that Beitar had been bought by U.S. investors Dan Adler and Adam Levine.

"This is an important day for Beitar Jerusalem, after almost six years in which Arkady Gaydamak was the owner we agreed yesterday (Wednesday) on the transfer of ownership," Kornfein said.

Beitar were Israel's richest club until three seasons ago when Gaydamak stopped most of his funding following a devastating result in the Jerusalem mayoral election in which he was a candidate. He refused several previous offers to sell the club.

"This is the time for all Beitar fans to get behind the new owners with the aim of perhaps taking the club back to its glory days," Kornfein added.

Adler is a Los Angeles entertainment executive and this year was unsuccessful in his bid to gain a seat as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress.

Gaydamak bought Beitar in August 2005 in a move that was likened in Israel to Roman Abramovich's purchase of English giants Chelsea in 2004. He invested heavily to make them by far Israel's richest club.

Beitar have the worst disciplinary record in Israel's Premier League and since 2005 they have faced more than 20 hearings and received various punishments, including points deductions, fines and matches behind closed doors.

They are also the only one among Israel's leading clubs never to have signed an Israeli-Arab player because of fan pressure. (Editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com) (Editing by Ed Osmond)