It was last Wednesday that ship-owner Vaggelis Marinakis bought Greece’s historical media group, the Lambrakis Press Organisation (DOL), by tendering the most competitive bid.
Marinakis is the new owner of Greece’s most historical and troubled newspapers, TA NEA and TO VIMA, as well as a 22.11% stake in private MEGA TV, one of Greece’s most popular private channels, which had hardly been hit by the crisis when its past owners abandoned it to its own fate.
The deal also included VIMA FM, 50% of IRIS printing house and 41.22% of distributor network Argos, giving Marinakis the chance to further build his media empire, as he is already the owner of PARAPOLITIKA group and ELEFTHERIA TOU TYPOU daily, the newspaper that currently hosts most of DOL’s long-time unpaid journalists.
Wednesday’s tender means defeat for Ivan Savvidis, a Russian-Greek Oligarch. This was a clear victory of Vaggelis Marinakis in blocking the expansion of Russian interests in Greece, a cardinal country in the south-east flank of Nato.
Savvidis has purchased a 19,5% share in the Port of Thessaloniki. Once the sale is finalised by the Greek authorities, he hopes to purchase from the German partners their share (47%) to own the majority of the Port company. This seems rather naïve as the Americans will never allow such a strategic infrastructure of the alliance to end up in the hands of the Russians.
It should be noted that, according to Russian sources, this is an initiative taken by Savvidis who has reportedly distant relations with the Kremlin after the removal of Sergei Ivanov, from the head of Vladimir Putin’s cabinet last August.
It seems that Savvidis wants to repair the broken bridge with Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin, however, knows where the red lines in international relations are and will never cross them.
According to well informed Moscow sources, Savvides’ link to the Kremlin was Putin’s former “right hand” Konstantin Malofeev, who is now in “disgrace” through the Kremlin’s past chief-of-staff (now also in “disgrace”) Sergei Ivanov.
Of course, it is questionable whether Savvides will eventually purchase the 19.5% of the Thessaloniki Port because the Cypriot company which participated in the tender, has not yet made the payment for the shares (€45m). It is also worth noting that the European authorities are keen to see the origin of the money as Cyprus is only the intermediary in this transaction which probably will originate from Uzbekistan where most of the Russian dollars are parked.
Even though it is probably not the case with Savvidis, most of the Russian origin red dollars are parked in the National Bank for Foreign Economic Activity of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Savvidis arrived in Greece several years ago investing several millions of dollars – first in the real estate market and then on football team while purchased the tobacco company SEKAP.
The origins of Ivan Savvidis go back to Rostov in Russia where, from a worker in the tobacco factory of Rostov during the Soviet era, he became owner of the factory during the period of perestroika which turned everything upside down. At the same time, Savvidis purchased the airport of Rostov where, among other, he found a fleet of Antonov cargo planes which used to transport cigarettes to Central Asia, North Africa and East Europe.
Savvidis had promised the present government of Greece it would help with its re-election by setting up a media empire and splitting the main opposition New Democracy party. It was under this context that he attempted to purchase DOL and MEGA Channel, but was stopped by Marinakis.
At the same time, he reportedly backed a splinter movement within the New Democracy party by forming a kind of a “League of Nord” in Northern Greece. This was aimed at forcing new Democracy to split, helping Syriza to stay in power. However, it seems this attempt failed as well.