AEK saved from bankruptcy

Greek football giants AEK have been saved from bankruptcy and possible relegation after a court decision yesterday to wipe out an overwhelming part of their 140-million-euro debt. An Athens appeals court granted AEK inclusion in a provision benefiting joint-stock companies that have previously obtained a waiver on their debts to a majority of creditors. The decision automatically saves AEK from paying 75 million euros of a total 80 million euros in tax arrears owed to the government, the club’s financial adviser Panayiotis Valassopoulos told AFP. AEK’s creditors, who are also their major shareholders, had previously agreed to forgive AEK’s debt of around 60 million euros – almost all the money that the club owed them. «Apart from my personal life, this is the happiest day of my life,» AEK President and former star player Demis Nikolaidis told reporters. «This opens the way for us to take out a loan, find sponsors, build a new stadium,» said Nikolaidis, who formed part of Greece’s national squad that sensationally won the Euro 2004 championship in Portugal. The bulk of Greece’s national squad is made up of AEK players who left the team after it fell into financial trouble, mired by mismanagement and scandal under past administrations. AEK’s forgiving creditors include Netmed, a South African-owned subscription television operator and Greek football broadcast rights holder, as well as Enic, a London-based sports, media and entertainment holding with stakes in several other European clubs, including Glasgow Rangers and Slavia Prague. Yesterday’s news prompted mixed feelings among local soccer pundits. Some questioned whether it was right to rejoice over the club’s narrow escape when former administrators who were primarily responsible for the club’s financial plight avoided criminal charges and remained free to pursue further business interests. (AFP, Kathimerini)