SPORTS

Haggling over AEK stake still on

British firm ENIC, one of the three major shareholders in AEK soccer club, yesterday failed to conclude an agreement to acquire an additional 38 percent stake held by Ippoventure. The deal would give ENIC majority control with a 72 percent stake ahead of plans to inject 1 million euros as a first-round emergency plan and, eventually, an intended sellout. ENIC is seeking to tighten its grip on the board at cash-strapped AEK ahead of a crucial general shareholders meeting next Monday that is likely to prompt a mass exodus of unpaid players should it fail to produce hard evidence of drastic financial improvement. ENIC and Ippoventure, controlled by a former club president, Makis Psomiadis, have been locked in negotiations for days during which Ippoventure has repeatedly broken promises of intending to sign a deal reached with the British firm. Representatives of both sides said yesterday that a deal would be signed today. As these negotiations drag on, Psomiadis’s position seems to be worsening. Yesterday, a public prosecutor filed money-laundering and embezzlement charges against him after a state auditors’ report earlier this week revealed that 19 million euros had gone astray during his reign as club president. Initial reports had slated the sum at close to 9 million euros. The investigation, conducted by the financial crimes squad (SDOE), is based on an audit of the club’s books, administrators’ bank accounts, transactions, and alleged forged invoices. Psomiadis responded by threatening to sue. Charges were also filed against two of Psomiadis’s cousins, both named Harilaos Psomiadis, who had assumed roles as caretaker administrators. Psomiadis, a former newspaper and nightclub owner, already faces a 12-year prison sentence for a forgery conviction but was freed pending an appeal in October after a court accepted medical evidence that he was suffering from tuberculosis. It remains unclear whether Ippoventure, the firm Psomiadis controls, would be entitled to a place at next week’s shareholders’ meeting, which is scheduled for Monday. If ENIC and Ippoventure have not reached a deal in time for the shareholders meeting, one of the club’s other major shareholders, the AEK Amateur Soccer Club, will be forced to establish a new board, which would lack the financial power to make badly needed changes. Reflecting the team’s beleaguered spirit, AEK’s coach Dusan Bajevic, who battled hard to keep unpaid players on the roster throughout the season, said earlier this week that the results of Monday’s meeting would determine the club’s future look. Greek soccer has been in financial turmoil ever since the collapse of pay-TV Alpha Digital last September, which has deprived clubs of substantial broadcast revenues.