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Aguiar returned to the synagogue in the following weeks. The rabbi says he wanted to know what kind of real guidance the Jewish religion provided, outside of temple services and special meals. The rabbi told him not to worry.
"The Jewish religion is 24 hours a day," he remembers telling Aguiar. "The Bible says that you should go to sleep on your left side and wake up on your right side."
Aguiar told Lipszyc of his growing business partnership with his uncle and said the two were looking for investment opportunities. The rabbi could tell that Aguiar was poised to make it big. This made it even more remarkable to him that the man was in his temple, looking for direction before worldly success. "Coming from poor and hitting it rich, you do not usually make a stop by God in the middle," the rabbi says.
Aguiar stayed faithful to his newfound Jewish God as he set out to make his fortune — just as he would, years later, when he ventured alone into the Atlantic Ocean.
Buried deep beneath the Texas prairies about halfway between Houston and Dallas, an ancient riverbed runs to the edge of a limestone shelf. Millions of years ago, when the river flowed on the earth's surface, its force drove sand over the edge of the cliff, to pile up in large deposits. By 2003, the layers of earth above the riverbed had already been drilled for natural gas with limited success. But the deeper deposits, called Deep Bossier sand, were largely unexplored.
John Amoruso, a former president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, had begun researching possible oil and gas reserves on his own. He had a pretty good idea there would be loads of natural gas trapped in that high-pressure pileup. It was a long shot, a "frontier play," and to test his theory, he would need someone with a lot of money and a tolerance for risk.
Amoruso was looking over some drilling logs one day at the Gulf Coast Geological Library in downtown Houston. He ran into an old associate who wanted to introduce him to someone interested in investing in "wildcat," or unproven, drilling ventures. The associate gestured to the corner, where Aguiar was looking at some maps.
Aguiar had come down to Houston as a representative for his uncle. Kaplan was convinced the world would face shortages of fossil fuels and wanted to tap the market by drilling for undiscovered reserves. So he sent Aguiar down as his "eyes and ears," scouting opportunities.
"I packed up my truck, moved down to Houston, drove out West, got an apartment at Eldridge and Westheimer, and started looking for projects," Aguiar told the Houston Chronicle in 2006.
A few weeks after the introduction in the library, Aguiar showed up at Amoruso's office. Amoruso explained his bid for the Deep Bossier in more detail, and Aguiar seemed to understand every word. "He was a down-to-earth fellow and a quick study," Amoruso recalls. "What we told him, he grasped and understood."
Aguiar called his uncle and told him what he had found. It was exactly what Kaplan had been looking for. Soon, the uncle-and-nephew team were buying land in Robertson County, amassing around 30,000 acres through a new company named Leor Exploration. Kaplan owned it; Aguiar was its CEO, earning a salary. The speculation went into high gear when they got wind of a deep-pocketed competitor, Burlington Resources, buying land in the same area. That drove land values way up. A Canadian drilling company called EnCana offered to invest in return for a share of the company.
In 2005, Aguiar married Jamie. They already had one child, Jacob, born in January of that year. Although they had known each other since high school and had dated for five years, they still signed a prenuptial agreement, which listed Jamie as having assets of $16,500 and Guma as having $3.5 million, mostly in cash, stocks, and a Fort Lauderdale house. Later, when their marriage faltered, Jamie would accuse Guma of having hidden from her the fortune he was about to make from Leor. The prenup made no mention of the windfall that would follow.
According to Jamie, seven days after they signed the agreement, Kaplan made Aguiar a 10-percent partner. Aguiar, who just a few years earlier had been helping retirees with their tennis strokes, suddenly had wealth and power. By 2007, he had hired a high-school tennis mate, Graydon Oliver, and his brother-in-law, Corey Drew. Kaplan later said Aguiar doled out payments to sister Angelika Aguiar Drew and others, spending the company's cash as he saw fit.
In the fall of 2007, with the ventures raking in money, EnCana offered to buy out Kaplan and Aguiar. The price for all of Leor's holdings in the newly dubbed "Amoruso Field": $2.55 billion.
Ten percent of that — $255 million — was enough to make Aguiar a very rich man. He started spending money on luxury items like cars and boats. And increasingly, he turned his focus to Judaism.
Aguiar got Jamie to convert. He began traveling to Israel frequently and buying properties in Jerusalem.
He introduced his father to Rabbi Lipszyc. Otto Aguiar had been desperate for a cure for his pain, traveling back and forth to Brazil in the later years of his life for apitherapy treatments, in which he was injected with 60 stings' worth of bee venom. Just before Otto died on a bed in Holy Cross Hospital in 2006, he said he wanted to be buried in Israel, though he'd never converted.