SPORTS

Panathinaikos boss stuns all

Panathinaikos owner Yiannis Vardinoyiannis stunned all listeners yesterday by announcing that he will sell nearly half of his family’s stake in the soccer club. Breaking the news at a press conference, Vardinoyiannis said his family would retain 50 percent of its current 90 percent stake, and sell the rest through a capital share increase to any buyers interested in contributing 80 million euros. «After the 30 years that we have owned the club and the entry of the stadium’s project into its final stage, we feel we can open up Panathinaikos while retaining a 50 percent stake that guarantees the future of Panathinaikos,» he said. He made it clear that the funds raised will be exclusively used for new signings and the strengthening of the squad. The share capital increase’s details will be examined by Vardinoyiannis and his team of experts and will be announced within 20 days. «This is just the idea I have. I have not gone into the fine details. If I had studied everything and waited to tell you about it afterward, it would have leaked in advance,» said Vardinoyiannis. «So now here I am telling you all there is to it at the moment, and I’ll get back to you with all the details in 20 days’ time,» he said. Vardinoyiannis said he will cooperate with any new shareholder, regardless of what some people may have said about him. He was refering to criticism leveled against him by the Unifying Movement of Panathinaikos (PEK). The plan, he added, is intended to heal the wounds opened in the Panathinaikos family due to the «murky» present and the «split among Panathinaikos fans.» The club’s owner refused to comment on any of PEK’s moves or statements and even avoided mentioning the names PEK and Andreas Vgenopoulos, the movement’s strongman. Vardinoyiannis, responding to a question, refused to link his decision with a rally held on April 13 that attracted thousands of Panathinaikos fans to protest the club’s lack of success in recent years and calling for his departure. The club boss said he had considered the move some time ago but had to wait first for the new stadium to reach a satisfactory stage. The remainder of the shares, 10 percent, currently belong to the amateur arm of Panathinaikos as well as 1,200 small shareholders with no say in the club’s administration. Just a few hours after the news broke, PEK responded with a brief statement describing the move as a step «in the right direction.»