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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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Joshua ‘Shuey’ Jacoby is certainly already a mover and shaker in the Jerusalem sports scene from his home in New York. Jacoby currently lives in the U.S. and if his Beitar bid is successful, he plans to make aliyah in order to lead his project from the ground (or, as he says, “from the pitch”).

Jacoby is leading a group of investors that includes Chicago- based businessman and real estate investor Ilan Tzedaka, and Israeli real estate developer Sasi Yaakov, in cooperation with the Beitar Jerusalem fans’ association, to save Jerusalem’s top soccer club from bankruptcy.

Jacoby grew up in Monsey, New York. He attended MTA, spent his gap year at Yeshivat Shaarei Mevaseret Zion, and then went on to study at Yeshiva University. Following this, he earned an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business, and a masters in sports management from Columbia University.

Professionally, Jacoby established a career mixing the worlds of sports business and education. After a variety of sports internships (Washington Capitals, New York Mets, Bloomberg Sports, MSG), he worked at Madison Square Garden in marketing partnerships. He also worked at Pico, an Israel based sports tech start-up and, most recently, at New York Road Runners, the largest running organization in the world (amongst their many events is the TCS New York City Marathon).

On the education front, he worked at YU on a few stints, the longest being as executive director of the high schools (MTA and Central). On the side, he has served in a volunteer capacity as director of development at the David Wright Foundation (David being the longtime and now retired captain of the New York Mets). During COVID, he took a sabbatical and studied at Shapell’s yeshiva in Jerusalem.

The Jewish Link spoke with Jacoby about his aspirations, how things are progressing and what deeper ideological reasons drove him to invest in the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team.

What explains his connection to the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team?

“I grew up in a Zionist home and my love of Israel continued to grow over the years. During my sabbatical year in Israel, I began meeting and speaking to some people in the Israel sports industry,” he said.

“The Israel sports industry is still in nascent stages and it was interesting to learn more about the various leagues and clubs. It somewhat inspired the idea of getting involved... perhaps my next career step could be to leverage some of the skills and experience I gained in the U.S. sports industry and bring them to Israel.

“Via a friend of mine who is somewhat influential in the Israel sports sector, I looked at a variety of opportunities until he informed me that BJFC was going up for sale. The same day that Moshe Hogeg, the team’s owner, announced that he was selling the club and putting it under a trustee, I had a Zoom meeting with the two of them.

“It began a long process of analyzing the financials, researching the history, putting together a business plan and finding other investors. It has been, and continues to be, a roller coaster of a process. I probably have learned more over the past 10 months than I did in my years years of business school.

“Beitar stood out to me because it’s a special - although admittedly risky - opportunity. It is the most visible, most iconic club in Israel, for good or for bad. It has by far and away the largest fan base, with over 700,000 fans spread out over the entire country - not to mention the international fans.

“I call this a mission driven investment. Yes, I plan to operate this as a business and not as a toy/trophy as some other owners across the world operate their team’s. The hope and expectation is that the asset will appreciate in value over time similar to the escalating valuations of other team’s around the world. But at its core, for me and the other investors that have joined me, this is driven by the realization that there are few, if any, other platforms that have the opportunity to make such a large and positive impact on Israeli society.”

But, for Jacoby it goes deeper than that. “The goal is to transform this club into an “or lagoyim”, a light unto the nations. I very much identify with the Beitar movement and its roots in Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionist roots. He himself believed in a Jewish state in which everyone can thrive together.

“It may be a challenge, but I believe that the fans are on board with this vision as well and want to work with us to change the club’s image on the world stage. As part of this, we plan to integrate the club more deeply into the fabric of the community, with a particular focus on working with kids - teaching Jewish values through sports.”

How is Jacoby's purchase of Beitar going? “This is a distressed asset and thus the goal is to acquire it at somewhat of a discount. For a variety of reasons, it appears to be on the brink of bankruptcy, which would force relegation and some other negative consequences.

“We’re structuring the capital raise in two rounds. It will take a smaller amount in the Series A round to take over the club and begin the stabilization process. As we move forward, we plan to begin a second round of fundraising at a higher valuation. While we are leaving the Series A round open for now in order to allow for the inclusion of other investors that share our mission and values that may still wish to participate, we have the capital to move forward with a somewhat leaner budget in year 1.

“That said, the club signed an agreement with another buyer last week. It seems that the deal has contingencies in place that may not be able to be fulfilled. If that’s the case and the deal falls through, I want to be prepared to move quickly to move forward. The next step would be to sign an LOI and make sure we are satisfied with the due diligence.”

Jacoby further added, “It’s been an incredible few weeks and it’s been great to have obtained the support from so many people and politicians around Israel. My group has the support of the Amuta (the overarching fan group) and Nir Barkat, amongst other political leaders, has been extremely supportive and helpful as well. This just demonstrates how imperative the success of this club is for both the city of Jerusalem and the state of Israel.”

Jacoby then provided his ultimate dream for the club: “This iconic franchise has an incredible amount of potential and I’d love to see us meet our goals of working with the fans to improve the culture, becoming more deeply integrated into the community and the youth programming, and - of course - building a franchise that is successful on the pitch. And if I were to really, really, dream... why not the European Cup?”

By Benjy Singer

 

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