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Greece and Athina Onassis do not have future together

09 May 2013 / 21:05:26  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The news that granddaughter Athina has sold the island of Skorpios in the Ionian Sea, which is emblematic of her family, has revived the interest of the world public in the dynasty of Onassis. The discussion about whether she had to sell the island to the daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, and why, has involved persons, who are close to the family, including one of the closest friends of her mother Christina.

GRReporter has sought the opinion of Alexis Mantheakis - former spokesman and adviser to the family of Athina Onassis’ father, Thierry Roussel, who has known her since she was a child and who is talking about her connection with Greece before and after the appearance of Alonso de Miranda Neto, known as Doda, in her life. Less than a year ago, he published an e-book in English entitled "Athina Onassis. In the eye of the storm," which is an informal biography of the only heiress of Aristotle Onassis’ former dynasty.

Mr. Mantheakis, did the sale of the island of Skorpios surprise you? How would you comment on the decision of Athina Onassis?

I am one of those people who had been claiming, for 4-5 years at least, that Athina would sell Skorpios at a certain point despite her denials through third parties and through her husband Doda. I had just seen that things were moving in this direction and unfortunately, the developments have confirmed my expectations.

How would you explain her decision to sell the island?

Nobody knows why, but when one makes sale-trade and receives money, it is logical to assume that the reason is money.

The annual maintenance of Skorpios cost her over 1 million euro and she had never visited it. Meanwhile, she had sold "Crystal" villa in the winter resort of St. Moritz for 20 million euro as well as other properties, including the one in Glyfada, where Onassis’ houses were located in the past. These properties along with Skorpios were emblematic of the Onassis family.

The moment she sold this property and her mother’s jewellery – those very personal items – things were clear to me. Athina did not receive a large amount for them – 7-8 million euro. This is a lot of money for us and it is nothing for the scale of Onassis.

Yes, this is the strange thing. Everyone would say that Athina Onassis does not need money.

This is something that nobody knows. We cannot know her needs and what she needs the money for. These things are relative. When you are very rich, your needs are also great. Maybe she wants to invest that money in something else. However, it is not clear at least so far why she has sold the island.

One important issue is the price. According to the press, she received $ 117 million for the island of Skorpios and the islet of Sparti, which is not so little. Its length is almost one kilometre, there is a port, a large building and infrastructure - roads and more.

In 1975, when Onassis died, Skorpios and the property in Glyfada were assessed by the Greek state at an amount, which corresponds to $ 133 million today. Assuming that the property was worth about $ 10 million, $ 123 million remain for Skorpios.

The Russian billionaire - a wonderful businessman, has made a very good and profitable purchase for his daughter. He should be congratulated for this. He has shown that Russians are the best players of the capitalist game.

It is interesting that Athina has not decided to develop any activities in connection with the island and make money from it.

I visited Skorpios at the invitation of Athina and her family for the last time a few years ago, around 2002 – 2003. I then presented to her several proposals to develop the island. One of them was to repair the houses and allow tourist visits, for example 2-3 days a week, when she is not on the island. The other suggestion was for a tourist train to operate with the opportunity to purchase a ticket to allow visitors to go to East beach, where there are showers and where they can have a drink and spend a day on the island of Onassis, thus raising money for the maintenance of the island. Another option was to repair the villas and turn them into meeting points for large companies and the leaders of the most powerful countries in economic terms like the G-7. The money for the maintenance of Skorpios could have been collected for 4-5 years in this way. There were other suggestions as well, namely to sell small bottles of olive oil from Skorpios and other souvenirs and to interrupt the visits for 2-3 weeks a year, when the family is on the island. Athina, however, did not even want to hear something like that. Her lawyers explained that she and her husband were not interested in such proposals for Skorpios’ development.

What kind of person is Athina Onassis?

I had been asked the same question when Athina was 11 years old. My answer was that she was a steel doll. She's a beautiful girl and she seems very sensitive, but a very tough nature hides behind that appearance. Her grandfather Aristotle Onassis was the same.

She has inherited this and the lack of sentimentality when it comes to money from her grandfather. With the sale of Skorpios, where the graves of her mother, her grandfather and other family members are, Athina has demonstrated that she is only interested in money not in the relationship with her deceased relatives, the island, the country. I attended her last visit to the island in 1998. We were together with her father, Thierry Roussel, and we went there for the commemoration of her mother Christina. She was small then and wept all night while her father was telling her things about her mother. This was her last outburst of emotions that I saw.

Actually, you describe this in your book "Athina Onassis. In the eye of the storm"

Yes, I had predicted how she would develop. The journalists were calling her "a frightened girl who is always after her father," because she did not want to be photographed and was hiding from them in general.

You should know that she is not scared at all. When we were on the island of Skorpios, I talked with Thierry Roussel and let a photo reporter come and take photographs of this historic ceremony with Athina at the commemoration of her mother. I had warned her to stay at a distance of 20 metres from the church, in which Athina and her father were. The photo reporter did not listen to me and approached the church. She stood by the door and started taking photographs of Athina, who was at Christina’s grave. Athina was irritated by the clicking, reacted sharply, became angry at her father and stopped talking to him. He even asked me to try to help in order for her to start talking to him again. I went to see her and told her that I had invited the photo reporter and that it was not her father's fault. She smiled at me, she was not angry at me, but it was impossible for me to convince her to change her attitude towards her father. I realized then how difficult the temper of this girl was. This became apparent when she was 18 years old. A week before she turned eighteen, she left her home, school and everything to follow her beloved Doda.


Athina with the second wife of her father and their children

Has Athina established any connections with Greece in recent years?

No, she has not, although she worked hard to establish them. The first negative development was the particularly high penalty the Greek court had imposed on her father as regards a virtually “in-house” dispute with the Onassis Foundation. He was sentenced to five years in prison for defamation, Athina was crying, it was a very unpleasant story. Then, the punishment was reduced to three years and Thierry Roussel had the right to redeem them. The point is that this whole story has deeply affected Athina.

Athina with her mother Christina Onassis and father Thierry Roussel

Later, she made a very significant attempt. She filed an application at the municipality of Athens and took the family name of Onassis. Then, I think it was in 2005, she decided to organize an international equestrian competition in the base in Markopoulo. She invited lots of people, the event was successful. Immediately after that, her husband expressed his desire to compete for the Greek national team. We're talking about a man who had already participated in the Olympics. Doda had left Brazil to compete for Greece but it refused to give him even a Greek athlete status. Really, the decision of the Greek authorities cannot be explained in a logical way.

Athina had invested money to organize a big sporting event, she had changed her last name and the local authorities did not accept her husband even as a member of the national team in order for him to participate in the Olympic Games in Beijing. All this had hurt her and she was absolutely right to feel this way.

Then, she began organizing this event in Brazil. In Greece, it was called the Christina Onassis Horse Show and in Brazil - the Athina Onassis Horse Show. This is one of the three most important sporting events in the Latin American country.

The international version of this race is organized by Athina and Doda again and it is called Global Champions Tour. Today, it is the most important event for equestrian sports after the Olympic Games and it takes place in a different location every month: Dubai, Singapore, London. So, Athina has left Greece behind. It was just a matter of time for her to decide not to return.

Has Athina Onassis acquired Greek citizenship?

Yes, she has; her mother Christina registered her in the municipality of Athens under the name Athena Helene Roussel immediately after her birth. She still has her Greek citizenship. It is worth noting here that she is competing for Greece today. This means something and I think that this is the only thing she has left from Greece. Athina shows respect for the country that did not show the best possible attitude towards her.

At present, the only ones who keep the memory of Aristotle Onassis alive are the people from the Alexandros Onassis Foundation. How would you evaluate their work?

I would not like to comment on anything in connection with the Foundation. All I can say is that in his will, Onassis defined as the first objective of the Foundation the establishment of awards similar to the Nobel Prize. Does anyone know anything about these awards?

This is a large organization that owns ships and property and manages big capital. The sons of Aristotle Onassis’ three most trusted former employees have been managing it: a lawyer, an accountant and a pilot. Of course, there is a board but these three persons take the decisions in practice. I would not say anything more.

Do you think that the relations between Athina Onassis and Greece could improve?

This should happen but my opinion is that her husband Doda is not the person who will bring her closer to Greece. He was on Skorpios for a short time; they never went there on holiday. And the truth is that a husband, especially when he is older, exerts influence on his wife. Athina does not have bad memories of her visits to Greece; we had always had a good time on different cruises with her family when she was young.

All the same, Doda is Brazilian, he is not connected with Greece and I do not see why he should want to be connected with the country in some way. So, as long as she is with him, I do not expect that Athina will return to Greece.

Could you make a comparison of Athina with her mother Christina? What are their similarities and differences?

I do not think they can be compared. Her mother had many problems and led an undisciplined lifestyle. She had many problems with her parents. Her mother did not like her as child and thought that she was ugly. Her father was constantly busy with his business and did not have time to pay attention to her.

Athina is the opposite. She grew up in a very united family in which her father and her stepmother always were right next to her. She is extremely disciplined.

The second difference is Athina’s constancy in her relationships. As you can see, she has been with the same man for years. Christina, in turn, had had four husbands and several other relationships within 10-12 years. I do not want to be critical, I am just pointing out the facts. Athina is a very strong-minded person and she fights to the end.

Christina wanted to have a child, and did so. Athina does not have a child yet and it is unclear whether she wants to have one of her own or whether she will adopt Doda’s daughter.

Nobody knows how her life will continue. We, the people who know her and who were close to her at some point, hope that she will be healthy and happy for many years. However, she is an Onassis and we cannot know how things will develop.

You have raised alone the issue of the so-called curse of the Onassis family.

I did not believe there was such a thing but I saw five more people in the family dying when Athina came of age. This made me go back in time and then I found out that 33 people had died, who were part of the family or were close to it. So, I would not be able to fight against statistics. The fact is that the mortality in this family is so high that it would not be difficult to describe the phenomenon as a curse. I do not know if it's something metaphysical or just statistics, but I believe that there is something.

Tags: PersonsAthina OnassisSkorpiosAlexis MantheakisHorse racesThierry RousselChristina OnassisDoda
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