Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ivan Savvidis - Parvenu Of Greece's Oligarchic Scene

Ivan Savvidis is unlikely to enjoy reading this article which describes him as the parvenu of Greece's oligarchic scene. The name Savvidis first caught my attention when I was told that, as the owner of the soccer club PAOK, he had taken out full-page newspaper ads to thank Alexis Tsipras and his government for having passed legislation which freed him (Savvidis) of about 20 MEUR of tax liabilities. That seemed like a strange gift to a Russian billionaire. Then Savvidis' name came up again with the privatization of the beautiful Paliouri Beach which struck me as a deal behind closed doors. Then he allegedly purchased the Makedonia Palace Hotel in Thessaloniki, allegedly from IKA. Again, there was a smell to the deal. Then I heard the story that Savvidis had become the hard drinking partner of formerly dry alcoholic Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of Thessaloniki, who had allegedly returned to alcohol after his girlfriend left him. And then came the sale of the Thessaloniki port which I have written about before. There is so much smell surrounding the name of Ivan Savvidis that one cannot help but think that he is a crook. Perhaps even of the violent sort because one wonders why a businessman like he walks around protected by bodyguards.

One truly has to feel sorry for Greece when one reads the following excerpt from the article:

"These vulture oligarchs, many of whom—Boris Mouzenidis, Victor Restis—were not even born in Greece, have exploited the crisis to pick off swathes of real estate and industrial sectors for pittances. The provenance of most of their capital is at best suspect, at worst blatantly illegal. Evangelos Marinakis, a Piraeus shipping magnate with suspected ties to the Greek underground, has now become a major media player. The family of Dimitris Melissanidis, an oil tycoon with roots in North Ossetia who has been caught up in allegations of smuggling gasoline and has provided the U.S. Mediterranean Naval Fleet with its oil since 2003, now lords over OPAP, the former state-owned gambling conglomerate. A handful of other barons—Dimitrios Copelouzos, Spiros Latsis—have taken over airports and huge chunks of coastline. Each of these figures presents exaggerated versions of what Greeks call diaploki, the nefarious intertwining of government and private interests that austerity has deepened, not dismantled. But only with Savvidis does a confrontation appear to be forthcoming. What will happen when SYRIZA is voted out of power? Some speculate that New Democracy will be forced to move against him. He will present a test—an opportunity, even—for Mitsotakis, the new party leader widely considered, even by those within his own party, to be a feeble technocrat."

Savvidis is a foreign investor of the type which Greece should not touch even with a ten-foot pole!


  1. Look, Savvidis is a Russian oligarch.

    So what are you trying to say? Why the worst enemies of Greece meaning Russian oligarchs using dirty German money have cuased major damage to Thessaloniki?

    Of course, they have. Evil+evil = 2 Evils.

  2. I am not sure why the Thessaloniki Port is underperforming. It has almost zero connections to the Greek islands, its commercial traffic is very poor (see Marine traffic in the hyperlink below) and COSCO didn't even want to put a bid for it, eventhough it is closer to the east European markets than Piraeus. So, something is making this port underperfom and in general less attractive.

  3. Btw, what is the German ambassador doing spying on Cosco's port?

    We all know that foreign embassies heavily spy but when you have a name like Plot(ner), isn't common sense that sticking your nose into a port's business for the sole purpose of reporting back to Berlin on ways to sabotage it, is a bit too much?

    Jesus Christ! What sort of pronounced insecurity complex Germans have!

    No wonder that the port of Thessaloniki is also of interest to the 4th Reich!

    1. An official visit to the PPA is spying? Well, Germans seems to be lousy spies if that's what they consider spying.

  4. When you meet face to face the Chinese captain in charge of the project and you weigh his weaknesses and manerisms is not spying? What is it then? A social event to get a free tour of the facilities so that you tell your saboteurs where exactly the place the plastic explosives?

    Seriously now you think the Plotmaniac simply visited the port and did not write an extensive report back to his Berlin handlers as to the grave danger the port represents to German interests and a few ideas on how to neutralize the port's business?

    In what world do you live in? You think that GReeks and Germans are sort of friends?

    Kyrie eleison!

    1. I AM familiar with what ambassadors do. Writing extensive reports/analyses is part of their job. Below is an example of what the US Ambassador Speckhard reported to Washington back in 2008. Among others, he made the following recommendation about dealing with Greeks:

      "Getting the Greek3 to "yes" on difficult issues generally requires a good argument coupled with cajoling and schmoozing. The Greeks are susceptible to flattery and quick to be offended by a perceived slight." That's my experience, too.

  5. Mr. Kastner,

    It is more less quite true. However, from experience as in most countries, aren't all magnets of all countries more or less with scandals? In Greece, you simply have a name and face because the sums of scandals are much smaller. In Germany there is no face but huge conglomerates. VW, Deutch Bank. Likewise in the USA. Even Italy next to us with the respective Berlusconi.

    The (super rich) people with these connections of all countries will always have the power and the means to bend rules. And shady deals come in all shapes and forms. TBC honest, i really haven't met a super successful businessman who didn't have some questionable backgrounds or actions. Some of these people simply are more careful or are better advised as to not to look too dirty.

    Right or wrong these people are everywhere. Mentioning them is just a redundancy.


  6. This is an old observation going back to 2008, therefore more indicative of the Karamanlis government and ND.

    I don't see ND smoozing or flattering Tsipras. Quite the contrary. The opposition is quite brutal.

  7. Final opinion:

    There is NO way that Tsipras will not remain in power for another 4 years after 2019. These numbers are simply unreal:

  8. By the way, the article you are citing by Alexander Klapp is a contradiction of sorts. This is why it's so important that such articles are written by people who know and not outsiders to the Greek game.

    You can not be a boster boy for the left (which Savvidis is painted as such) and at the same time a member of the Pontic minority which is uber right and border line nationalistic.

    So the two terms contradict each other (leftistist vs. member of the Pontic community in assimmilation mode).

    The part that is closer to the truth is that Savvidis is very close to Moscow and as such his activities very suspicious. so much you can say. But the Savvidis in bed with Syriza narrative is simply sour grapes from the ND crowd which would gladly such up to Savvidis and his interests if they had the chance (in purely patriotic pro-Russian basis) but apparently they do not. Hence the foaming at the mouth.

    To me Savvidis is a low quality player. Period. You can't attach the Savvidis shortcomings to Tsipras.

  9. Interesting article, interesting timing, as you predicted the issue won't go away. I wonder how CGM CMA ended up in this unsavory company, they have a good reputation in the industry. They have 2 companies running ports for them, one wholly owned and one, Terminal Link SAS, 51/49 with a Chinese state company, it is the later that is involved in this deal.
    It is a petty for the Thessaloniki area, as the project has real potential.
    PS. "How To Become A Greek Oligarch In Seven Easy Steps" is another article on this with a slightly different angle.

    1. What is interesting to me is that your hatred against Greece shows no matter what. So, you are willing to take the author of "how to become a greek oligarch in seven steps", a pot smoking leftist junkie kid from Austin, TX as proof of anything? It seems to me that if a murderer wrote something negative about Greece, you would adopt it immediately because it fits your German propaganda.

    2. To show you how clueless you are by quoting an article by Michael Nevredakis. Why don't you use Nevredakis as gospel about 2 issues that this blog has seriously misjudged?

      Isuue #1 - where the Observing Greece blog has got it all wrong and it ensists towards fabricated nonsense. The ELSTAT and Georgiou case:

      "..But this falsification is evident. There is the case of Andreas Georgiou, the director of ELSTAT, who was sued, and at the beginning of August 2017 was found guilty of falsification by the Greek courts.

      What happened? Papandreou met with the leaders of the European Central Bank — at that time it was Jean-Claude Trichet, very linked to the French banks — and the IMF, whose general director at that time, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was also very linked to the French banks. The Papandreou government asked the director of ELSTAT to add some debt to the official public debt. At the first step, Eurostat, the European organization of statistics, told ELSTAT that it was an error to add this debt, but Eurostat was afterward also convinced by Trichet and by José Manuel Barroso, then the president of the European Commission, to be part of the falsification of the Greek public debt.

      I would estimate they increased the debt more or less 15 to 20 percent in relation to the Greek GDP, so that the official figure reached the huge ratio of 125 percent of GDP for the public debt, and the budgetary fiscal deficit reached something like 13 percent. So with these figures, the troika could say there is an emergency, we have to intervene to “help” the Greek government, with 110 billion euros of loans to Greece. So in this case, I would say that it was a conspiracy. I am not a conspiracist, but in this case we really now have the proof of a huge level of falsification and of the building of the fake narrative to misrepresent what was the real situation"

    3. Issue #2 - which "Observing Greece" blog gets perennially wrong. The issue of Greek debt. Here is a quote from the same article below:

      "In reality, the main problem was on the side of the private debt, the debt of the Greek banks, but also other businesses and households. There had been a process of huge growth of the private debt just after the integration of Greece into the Eurozone, because the big French, German, Dutch, and Belgian banks wanted to lend money to Greece, knowing that there was no risk of devaluation because of the monetary union.

      They had a surplus of liquidity before the crisis of 2007 – 08, and after the crisis because, as you will remember, the Federal Reserve of the U.S. and the European Central Bank injected a huge amount of liquidity into the banks. These banks used that money to lend where they were having the better profits, and the countries of the “periphery” — like Greece but also Portugal, Ireland, and Spain — were more profitable than countries like Germany, France, Benelux, the U.K. or the U.S.

      So the main issue was the problem of the bubble of private credit, but the main problem of the Greek government of George Papandreou in 2009, and the problem of the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy and the government of Angela Merkel in Germany, was that it was impossible to tell voters that we have to once more bail out the private banks. Therefore, it was necessary for them to build a fake narrative of what was happening in Greece, telling the public that the main problem was the huge level of public debt and the incapacity of the Greek government to keep on financing its public and external debt. In reality, they created this fake narrative to convince public opinion about the need to give money to the Greek government to “bail out” the Greek private banks and the French and German and Dutch and Belgian private sector, mainly the banks.

      So, I disagree with the dominant narrative and I disagree with Varoufakis, who wrote in his book that the Greek government was bankrupt. I think the main problem was the banks, and the Greek government had the choice to either bail out the private sector or to “bail in” and socialize the banks (forcing the banks to take losses). It ultimately decided not to socialize or to expropriate the private banks. It was an error of the Greek government, and the other European governments were accomplices, along with big financial capital.

      In summary, there is a difference between what Varoufakis is saying and what I am saying, and the conclusions are also different. I would say that what the Greek government should have done would have been to suspend the payment of the external debt, including the public debt. Varoufakis is saying the Greek state should have recognized itself that it was bankrupt and should have sold public assets to the foreign private sector, including selling to the other European countries and investors, and to the Greek banks. Do you see the difference?"

    4. L 12.41
      "Éric Toussaint, the spokesman of the Brussels-based Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM) and scientific director of the Greek Debt Truth Audit Commission" - this is the man you are quoting. You might as well quote Zoe Konstantopoulou to get to the bottom of this...

    5. @12.43
      I am afraid it is both you and the author who get something wrong. In an external payments crisis, the issue is never one of public debt or private debt. Instead, the issue is ALWAYS one of FOREIGN DEBT OF BOTH, THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR! Also referred to as "cross-border debt". Why? Because if Greece's debt in 2010, both of the public and private sectors, had been held domestically instead of cross-border, there would have been very little anxiety between Paris-Brussels-Frankfurt-Berlin. They would have waiting on the sidelines to see how Greece sorts out its domestic (in-country or in-border) problems.

      From 2001-10, Greece's foreign debt increased by 283 BEUR to 404 BEUR. That increase was about 50:50 between public and private sector (the latter mostly banks). Details in the link below. Those 404 BEUR is what foreigners had at stake in Greece (put differently: if Greece had fallen into the Aegean, foreigners would have been out of 404 BEUR). Already by 2008, foreign creditors began losing faith in Greece as evidenced by the fact that they were calling back short-term funding from Greek banks (which from 2008 onwards was replaced by Target2 as evidenced by raising Target2 liabilities). As long as the ECB kept funding the banks, there was no problem. Only when the state's credibility went totally out the window (Papandreou's announcement of revised budget deficits), sudden stop set in and there was no way that the Greek state could have raised new debt in the markets to pay for upcoming maturities and/or domestic deficits.

      In conclusion: yes, there was a major problem with the private sector (i. e. the banks) but that would not have triggered the crisis because the banks were being funded by the ECB. The state, on the other hand, had run out of funders. A state which increased its foreign debt by about half of 283 BEUR in 10 years (on top of receiving about 50 BEUR of EU subsidies during this period) certainly had a bit of a problem, wouldn't you agree? And certainly a state which has run out of funders has a big problem!

      BTW, the author really gets confused here and there. He says: "In reality, the main problem was on the side of the private debt, the debt of the Greek banks, but also other businesses and households." Two different things: the "debt of other businesses and households" are assets of the Greek banks and not liabilities. The "debt of the Greek banks" was the above foreign debt/funding with which the "debt of other businesses and households" was financed.

      The private banks which were bailed out in 2010 were the foreign banks and not the Greek ones, as the author suggests.

      And, yes, the narrative that the public debt was the big problem was correct because it was the public debtor which had run out of funders and not the banks.

      So let me repeat the major lesson to be learned from the Greek situation: in an external payment crisis, the issue is not public or private debt. Instead, the issue is TOTAL FOREIGN DEBT of both the public and private sector!

    6. Kleingut:

      First let me give you an example of total debt and a tale of two cities. So, as it turns out Greece and Turkey have almost identical total external debt (the figure is close to $430 Billion). So Greece pays debt service of about $7 Billion per year and Turkey close to $70 Billion for the same amount of total debt. So, which country do you think is in crisis?

      As far as Toussaint, I didn't introduce him but your not so smart friend Lennard brought him into the conversation by wanting to quote an article on Savvidis by the same author. And I have said thousands of times here that before you guys start quoting articles from whatever source because it fits the temporary needs of your propaganda, do spend some time instead to vet the authors you are quoting. Otherwise mostly you embarrass yourselves by cherry picking what you want from people who turn out to be ideological fanatics.

      Now, let's go back to the Savvidis issue. Instead of quoting malconstructed articles by anarchists and as you put it "Kostantopoulou" followers all you have to do is look at the wiki link on Savvidis. The guy is the same as saying Putin and he is an oligarch whose fortune is based on the tobacco business. And as you know Northern Greece has a long history of tobacco production which at some point fed German needs at a significant trade surplus for Greece.

      If you had written an article saying "hey guys, we have a Putin guy here attempting to control Greece's largest northern port" and everybody would have understood the implications.

      But instead of doing the legitimate obvious, you get into these ND substories that Savvidis must be opposed by Mitsotakis and other essoteric crap.

      Please, let's learn to zoom in quickly at the essential. And the essential here is: Savvidis = a Putin operative. That's why the US Ambassador to Greece hit the ceiling. Because the Russians now control Thessaloniki.