Russian-born Greek businessman Ivan Savvidis was not successful in the Greek TV license wars that took place behind closed doors at the General Secretariat of Media and Communication. As a shrewd businessman of Pontian descent, Savvidis – one of Russia’s wealthiest men – with close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin took it all in his stride and emerged cool, calm and collected from the 66 hours of haggling.
The tycoon who, as a Russian MP, suggested that Istanbul give back Aghia Sophia to the Greek Patriarchate, and believes that “the salvation of Greece is with Russia” is a staunch supporter of the Greek diaspora. Not one to mince words, the football club owner of Thessaloniki’s PAOK and majority holder of the Donskoy Tabak, the largest Russian tobacco company, came out with a number of astute comments in the wake of the TV license bids that aim to rid Greece of a media landscape riddled with conflicting interests.
Here’s what he said in the 12 hours that followed the announcement that Minos Kyriakou, Vangelis Marinakis, Yiannis Alafouzos and Christos Kalogritsas would be Greece’s official TV barons…
1. “I am happy that the revenue from licenses would go towards the state budget. I congratulate the winners…” before adding in Russian, “I hope the yield would help the aged Pontians who are without social security.”
2. His description of the TV auction process that had contenders cooped up in a building without access to communication with the outside world was that it was “unique”, and he added that it “reminded him of prison. We even went to the toilets accompanied by police.” During the enclosure, the candidates joked between themselves that they were probably the only people to voluntarily confine themselves in such a way without a prosecutor’s orders.
3. Asked about how he felt about failing to come out of the negotiations with a license though Dimera Media Investments Ltd initial bid had been 61.5 million euros he said that he offered “only as much as (he) should” while keeping in mind the real value of the permits. “At the last stage I offered zero amounts.”
4. “I’m sorry that (SKAI Group Owner Yiannis) Alafouzos paid less than everybody else.”
5. Asked if the amounts offered are viable, he said that it is important to understand that not all offers were motivated by economic interests. “Some came here to save their channels and some came here to save themselves.” He pointed to strategic mistakes that other bidders made when they attacked him – including slurs regarding his Pontian roots – two days prior to the TV auction. It was at that point that he decided that if he did not get a license he would make the others pay as much as possible to get one. He added that everything went according to his own plan. “I beat them all,” he said. “My mission is complete.”