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Shipowner Yiannis Kambanis pulls bid to take over PAOK club

Greek shipowner Yiannis Kambanis has withdrawn his bid to buy out Thessaloniki club PAOK. The deal fell through because Kambanis was unable to reach an agreement with PAOK’s amateur club about ownership of the Toumba ground where the club plays, media reported. In a letter explaining his withdrawal, Kambanis blamed the amateur club’s president, Thanassis Katsaris, for the failure of the deal. «I felt they were taking back things that had been promised to me,» Kambanis was quoted as saying, referring to a takeover of the ground by the professional club. At a press conference, Katsaris said he was surprised by Kambanis’s decision. «At our initial meetings, Kambanis didn’t talk about the ground. That came to us late at night on a piece of paper,» he said. «One day he was calling us honorable and the next day dishonorable. I think somebody close to Mr Kambanis was a bad influence.» The failure of the accord leaves PAOK in a financial crisis with two leading players, Dimitris Salpiggidis and Ifeani Udeze, taking legal action against the club for unpaid fees. «The situation at this football club is more than tragic,» said Katsaris. Last week UEFA decided to exclude PAOK from next season’s UEFA Cup for financial irregularities. The club faces a June 30 deadline, set by the Greek soccer federation, to cover over 4 million euros in debt or face relegation to amateur competition, meaning the Greek fourth division. Yesterday’s collapse in negotiations prompted the revival of an earlier bid for the club’s acquisition by a Greek-Russian entrepreneur, Ivan Savvidis. His legal representative, the high-profile lawyer Alexandros Lykourezos, requested, in writing, an official update on where the club’s negotiations with Kambanis currently stood. In the letter, Savvidis also expressed interest in settling fees owed to the star striker Salpiggidis, who has taken legal action seeking payment or release from the club. (Reuters/Kathimerini)