Maccabi Tel Aviv chairman Shimon Mizrahi has emerged as the leading candidate to take over as president of world basketball's governing body the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), Haaretz has learned.

The Union of European Basketball Leagues (ULEB) met in Barcelona last weekend and Mizrahi, who is seen by many as the ideal person to lead the unification of the two organizations planned for next year, has the support of many of ULEB's top executives. One top ULEB executive told Haaretz that Mizrahi is the most influential figure today in European basketball.

Many in ULEB see FIBA's current president George Vassilakopoulos of Greece as a disruptive figure working against ULEB's interests, and his chances of another term are considered slim. Vassilakopoulos has also noted Mizrahi as a potential successor.

Mizrahi's chances of being elected to the post are enhanced by the fact that the FIBA congress is taking place in Moscow. Representatives of the host nation are not allowed to stand for office, meaning that FIBA vice president Valery Kuzin and the chairman of the Russian Basketball Association Sergei Chernov are out of Mizrahi's way.

Mizrahi declined to comment yesterday, but noted that he had been instrumental in negotiating the unification.