OPINION

Editorial

The announcement by Axon Airlines that it is suspending its operations and withdrawing from the market was not a bolt from the blue. Until recently, however, the National Economy and Transport ministries considered Axon’s bid to purchase Olympic Airways as the most reliable and profitable one for the Greek State. Based on Yiannos Papantoniou and Christos Verelis’s preference, Axon Chairman Thomas Liakounakos was, on an informal basis, practically in charge of Olympic Airways, in the sense that Greece’s national air carrier was administered in a way that largely coincided with his demands. In essence, both the government and Olympic’s managers treated him as if he were the would-be owner, even though the privatization process was far from complete. Some time ago, Axon had asked the National Bank of Greece for a 30-billion-drachma loan to deal with its various problems, but the efforts by the National Bank to form a consortium of banks for that purpose failed. The banks obviously deemed that the dire condition of the company prevented the granting of any such loan. In spite of all this, both the Greek government and Credit Suisse First Boston, its consultant on the privatization of Olympic Airways, thought until early November that Axon was the most likely bidder. It is worth noting that the change of course three weeks ago was made without any prior explanation. Neither the responsible officials nor the famous consultant felt obliged to give an explanation. They merely abandoned Axon’s bid and began to negotiate another one made by a group that includes Australian capital holders and Greek business tycoons Constantinos Angelopoulos and Pavlos N. Vardinoyiannis. The facts indicate that Axon tried to purchase Olympic Airways in order to cover its problem behind Olympic’s even greater hardships. The question, however, isn’t Liakounakos’s plans and possible moves, but rather the handling of the case by the government agents who were responsible. Recent developments have revealed their heavy political responsibility. Developments, of course, averted a giant scandal at the last moment. This necessitates rather than precludes a further investigation into the criteria of involvement of sellers and purchasers in what is a clearly suspect case.