Articles, Blog

Ivan Savvidis: The Football Owner That Went Viral

January 13, 2020

When we look back at the images that defined
2018, there’s plenty to choose from. But there was one, so breathtaking in its audacity,
that it rightfully went viral. Back in March, in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, a top of
the table Superleague clash was about to end 0-0 between the home side PAOK and AEK, from
Athens. Both teams have enjoyed scant success in recent years as the league has been dominated
by Olympiakos, owned by the highly controversial shipping magnate Evangelos Marinakis (more
on him later). Over the previous 21 seasons, Olympiakos had won 19 titles. But not this year. This year the league was
between the once dominant AEK of Athens, yet who hadn’t won the league since 1994, and
PAOK, who hadn’t won it since 1985. Whoever won the game would be in pole position. Throw
in a heated rivalry between the capital and Greece’s second city, the combustable atmosphere
in PAOK’s feared Toumba stadium and a large number of ultras, and the atmosphere was guaranteed
to be fiery. And indeed it was. So much so that when the
referee denied PAOK an 89th minute winner, the pitch was invaded by incredulous PAOK
staff, and in the middle was the owner Ivan Savvidis. Wearing a gun. Not many people outside
of Greece knew who Savvidis was. But here he was, with a gun on his hip, trying to remonstrate
with the referee. The game was abandoned and the images went around the world. The result
of that match, after much legal toing and froing, was awarded to AEK whilst PAOK had
three points deducted. The incident, effectively, cost PAOK the title, which AEK Athens gleefully
celebrated. But that game in March did much more than
bring the title to AEK. It brought Ivan Savvidis, a Russian oligarch closely aligned with Russian
President Vladimir Putin – and who bought a majority share of PAOK in 2012 – out of
the shadows whilst highlighting the dysfunctional state of Greek football; mired by fan violence,
knee deep in accusations of corruption and controlled by the machinations of the super
rich. Ivan Savvidis is very much a self made man.
He was born into a poor Pontic Greek family in rural Georgia in 1959, when it was part
of the Soviet Union. The Pontic Greeks had historically come from the southern shores
of the Black Sea, today in modern, northern Turkey. For centuries the Greek Orthodox christian
population had found life difficult under the Ottoman empire, and had endured purges
and forced expulsions. The situation became most pronounced from the end of the 18th century
until the end of the Greco Turkish War, which Turkey won in, 1922. By the final population
exchange agreed in 1923, two million people were uprooted. The Pontic Greeks fled and
found themselves in the what would become the Soviet Union, where Savvidis was born.
In fact, both PAOK and AEK have refugee histories. Both clubs were formed from recently arrived
refugees from Constantinople, now Istanbul, who built football clubs to replace the ones
they had lost. Savvidis left home at 15 and moved to Rostov
on Don, where he got a job rolling cigarettes at the state owned tobacco company before
joining the army, where he served with distinction. He later graduated from the Rostov State University
of Economic in 1988. The details are hazy about what, he owned at that time, but after
the Soviet Union disintegrated, he returned briefly to Greece before coming back to become
the general director when the tobacco factory was privatised. Donskoy Tabak became one of
the biggest players in the Russian tobacco market. It was reported by the International
Consortium of Investigative Journalists that Donskoy gifted one billion cigarettes a year
to the Russian army. From there, Savvidis diversified, setting up Agrokom in 2004 which
provided a home for his myriad assets, including Donskoy Tabak and “the biggest cooked pork
meat factory in South Russia” according to one official biography. He also loved football
and was president briefly of Russian team FC Rostov and then their smaller city rivals
SKA Rostov. At the same time Savvidis entered politics. In 2003 and entered the Duma, Russia’s
Parliament as a member of United Russia, the country’s ruling party and long time political
home of Putin (although Putin chose to run as an independent in Russia’s flawed 2018
presidential elections). He served until 2012. By then he had turned his attention to Greece,
his ancestral homeland, and especially the northern region of Macedonia. The Greek financial crisis – which followed
the 2008 global recession – decimated the country’s economy, and Thessaloniki was hit
particularly hard fuelling the already palpable resentment in the north of the country towards
Athens. But Thessaloniki is also strategically important. The port is Greece’s gateway to
the Balkans. So the crisis also presented an opportunity. Savvidis, after aligning himself
with left wing government of Alexis Tsipras, went on a spending spree to purchase a whole
range of assets at a knock down price. He is part of a consortium that has bought Thessaloniki
port, a key strategic asset for NATO (of which Greece is a member). Russia views NATO as
a military threat and combating its spread is perhaps its biggest foreign policy goal
(more on that later too). Newspapers, a TV channel, tobacco companies, vast tracks of
real estate and beach fronts, not to mention hotels and other business have all been purchased
by Savvidis. He has come to dominate Thessaloniki’s economy. But it was the 2012 acquisition of PAOK transformed
him into a local hero. Greek football has been mired in corruption scandals, violence
and allegations of government interference and favouritism for decades. Much of that
came to a head in the Greek match fixing crisis of 2015. Dozens of officials were arrested
and charged for their involvement, including Olympiakos owners Evangelos Marinakis. PAOK,
and its fearsome Gate 4 ultras, had always seen themselves to be on the receiving end
of a vast conspiracy directed from Athens by the likes of Marinakis. Savvidis was seen
as the antidote; a wealthy man, an outsider, not dependent on state patronage and clean
of the corruption that seemed to blight Greek football. When violence marred a cup semi
final match against Olympiakos the following year, and almost led FIFA to suspend the Greek
FA, Savvidis withdrew PAOK from the second game. “Greek football is undergoing an acute
crisis – the healthy parties are fighting against a well-organized corrupt system,”
he later explained in a statement. “Everyday we are welcoming more supporters of clean
football in our ranks. Today we need to unite our efforts and prove that the need to protect
our country’s sporting honour, justice and decency stands above the interests of a single
club.” Marinakis was cleared three years later of
forming a match fixing ring, but is still awaiting the outcome of a drug trafficking
charge related to a ship that was found to have two tonnes of heroin on it. He has strenuously
denied any wrongdoing. When Marinakis bought Nottingham Forrest in 2017 he said that “the
prosecution against me is a product of a plot and it has nothing to do with the truth.” But as Savvidis’ battles with the Greek footballing
establishment was winning over fans in Thessaloniki, elsewhere questions were being asked about
the reasons for his vast investments in the region, especially key NATO assets like the
port, which seemed to correlate with the Kremlin’s wider geo-political interests. A few months
after the gun incident, a report from the OCCRP, a well respected international anti-corruption
organisation, claimed that Savvidis had been funnelling cash in to the Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia, which borders Greece to the north. The country had recently changed its government
and pledged to join NATO and the European Union. But this had been prevented by Greece
in the past over the name of the country. Greece believes that there is only one Macedonia,
the northern region of its country, and that FYROM is an attempt to acquire history and
territory from Greece. It is a hugely emotive issue. But the new Macedonian prime minister
Zoran Zaev and Greece’s Alexis Tsipras agreed on a deal that would see the country renamed
as the Republic of North Macedonia. A referendum was planned in FYROM to OK the move. The agreement
sparked violent protests in Thessaloniki, often involving PAOK ultras. The Greek government
even expelled two Russian diplomats over what they believed was attempts by Russia to stir
up opposition to the agreement. Meanwhile, OCCRP claimed that Savvidis was funnelling
300,000 euros in cash to nationalist groups in the Macedonian capital of Skopje, and especially
to the feared KOMITI ultras of FK Vardar, a football club owned by a Russian tycoon
Sergey Samsonenko who, by chance, also comes from Rostov. The money, it was claimed, was
used help agitate protests against the name deal and help thwart Macedonia’s NATO ambitions. Macedonia’s prime minister later accused “Russian
businessmen” of trying to agitate against the referendum. Savvidis, meanwhile, denied
he had anything to do with it. “We make it absolutely clear that businessman Ivan
Savvidis has nothing to do with the allegations of this totally false and highly slanderous
report,” he said in statement. Still, on the pitch at least, things are looking
better. When PAOK played AEK earlier this season, PAOK won. Savvidis wasn’t there. He’s
been banned from all football activity for three years, although that doesn’t stop him
turning up to the stadium where he waves at the fans and then leaves before kick off.
He does, at least, have other good news to console him. Earlier this year he sold Donskoy
Tabac, as well as his Greek tobacco holdings, for $1.6 billion to Japan Tobacco. Ivan Savvidis officially became Russia’s newest

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  • Reply eurosensazion October 25, 2018 at 3:45 am

    So far 2019 season in Greece seems fine. The refs on main matches now are FIFA/UEFA refs from other countries brought in to ref the games. Panathinaikos is all youngsters under 25 by decree with starting -9 points with only Greek players. They'd be in 1st in table now if wasn't for point deduction. Olympiakos sucks. AEK is building new stadium but lost main coach and players from last year so no chance of doing anything descent in Champions League. Paok will most likely win title this year as it has the most stable and better team.

  • Reply YeEt BoY October 25, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    You dont even show the goal bitch gooooooooo diiiieee ΠΑΟΚ ΓΙΑ ΜΙΑ ΖΩΗ ΚΑΤΑΛΑΒΕΤΕ ΤΟ understand it bitches

  • Reply sxizofrenis4 October 25, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Greek football is the most filthy in the world. Every owner is selling drugs and shit., thats how they get their money.. Marinakis the owner of Olympiacos is controlling the hellenic football federetion and thats the reason why olympiacos has 44 FILTHY cups. Prepaid refs for crooked games. Only the fans are good in greek football with real love for their clubs.

  • Reply Giannis Agortzas October 26, 2018 at 6:17 am

    Its not macedonia…. Macedonia is greek this fak country is vardaska or skopje. Fuckin slavs with zero history

  • Reply Θωμάς Στρυμπώνης October 27, 2018 at 7:30 am

    Savidis is not a criminal and he will never be.The biggest criminals ar marinakis and melissanidis.Savvidis try to clear the crime so the criminals who controll the channels can affect people.They present savvidis like criminal and greece's enemy.But he actually love greece more than the most of us.Please never judge by someone fro a bad moment.

  • Reply Λεωνίδας Μπαρλής October 27, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Αθήνα ενωμένη από τον ΠΑΟΚ ΓΑΜΗΜΕΝΗ

  • Reply Why So Serious? October 27, 2018 at 11:49 pm


  • Reply Theodore Yiannopoulos October 28, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Coming from a Thessaloniki resident, your video is highly accurate, and rare in that it states the fact without overbearing judgment.

  • Reply DIMITRIOS MALGARINOS October 28, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    Amazing Work ! from an Aek supporter who lives in Thessaloniki

  • Reply panathasg13 October 29, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Marinakis Drug Dealer – Noor 1

  • Reply panathasg13 October 29, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Excellent work.

  • Reply Thodoris Milis October 29, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    I mean I'm Greek and even a Greek couldn't have said the story better! What a great video! Keep up the good work!

  • Reply Yiannis Fotinis October 31, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Everything on point.Well done.

  • Reply spyros prevel October 31, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    οταν εισαι ελληνας και βαζελος και απλα τους βριζεις ολους στο βιντεο

  • Reply 1926 October 31, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    Paok against all

  • Reply will27ns October 31, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Soccer truly transcends sport. This does cause complications.

  • Reply PAOKmadness1926 November 1, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    only PAOK mouniaaaaaa

  • Reply Random Stuff November 2, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    In Greece it was also reported falsely it seems, by accounts till today that Savvides had also financed opposition rallies in Greece. The problem I have with such exegesis, is that if one with no knowledge of the situation were to view the video, he would think that this is another example of "Russian interference", i.e. people want to do X, but Russia interferes to achieve Y…truth is Greek public opinion is quite opposed to the deal and certainly a very large part of FYROM's population is against the deal…abstention in the referendum was very high, but there are problems with demographic registries, so let's say it's a little more than 50% does not want the deal….so the CORRECT account would be that NATO-EU countries grossly intervened to sway public opinion (stick and carrot) and failed.

  • Reply Random Stuff November 2, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    Selective research there across your videos…everything that might invoke "russiophobia" is news, even if it accounts for 2% of what's happening in a country….Greek oligarchs with a hand in Media, Shipping, Industry, Sports, Energy etc have predominantly made their money serving the established interests in Greece, i.e. western/nato aligned deep state from WW2 to CIA supported dictatorship, to present….Really, count the Media oligarchs who have been propagandizing "nato/eu interests" in their newspapers/tv channels (all of them, literally) and those who were pro-Russia (Russia never even pushed Greece to seek partnership outside the EU)…none for the latter even in Savvides….whatever fits your "lenses" you look for it and you mute the wider reality

  • Reply theos thc November 2, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    FUCK paok

  • Reply Πολυδεύκης Μεράζης November 5, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    Oh wow

  • Reply mike sidereal November 5, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Marinakis is a scum but he was never arrested for fixed matches….
    And as for the drug ship, it's also a set up from Panos Kammenos.
    The whole week before the drug ship case emmerged, Kammenos was at Monaco with the attorney that accused Marinakis for the drug ship… (photos of them together at Monaco can be found everywhere on the internet)
    Panos Kammenos which is now minister of defence in Greece has a beef with Marinakis and does everything to destroy him. I am an Olympiakos fan and i really hate Marinakis but the truth has to be said…

  • Reply mpampis larsons November 5, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    Μαλακες το θεμα εχει παρει τα πανω του

  • Reply Chris Omatic November 6, 2018 at 1:23 am

    When he was in Russia he was my uncles best friend and a week ago he visited me and i got Ivan Savvidis phone number, lol.

  • Reply STIFF MEISTER November 8, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    χαχαχαχαχαχα η ρωσιδα ατιτλη τσατσα

  • Reply Eamon Roach November 14, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    You covered a lot of ground here in only a little over 9 minutes while keeping your discussion coherent. I'm particularly impressed by this video!

  • Reply Giourkas Liakos N November 25, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Long Live Hellas 🇬🇷

  • Reply red star January 9, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Pusi kurac!!!!! Prijovic is s serbish….Dont speak sheat.. fuck you old stupide men!!!!!!! Srbija-Grcka— Olympiskos – Zvezda!!!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Reply Rizzo RIZZO February 10, 2019 at 11:42 pm

    A Russian oligarch complaining about corruption is like a surgeon complaining about blood.

  • Reply nick February 20, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Greek Superleague is one of the most corrupted leagues in the world Since 1997 it is controlled by two Olympiacos presidents Kokkalis (former member of the East German secret services STASI) and Marinakis (an Escobar like drug lord) Now the controll seems to go to the shady Russian oligarch Savvidis and nothing will change as he does not fight corruption Savvidis wants to controll greek football as Marinakis did

  • Reply Steve Duce February 25, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    twinned with royal tunbridge wells/the place i live!

  • Reply PAOK History April 9, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    Things are very simple. Greek Football' s corruption began in 70s mostly by Panathinaikos and it's owner, Vardinogiannis, but it had to do with very few macthes in which referie some times favored Panathinaikos, truth is that it was a rare phenomenon, but it happend some times and many clubs did it more or less, of course, considering that the league was amateur and it became professional in 1979, OK. It's acceptable, but the corruption in Greek football with the form of organized crime, started back in 86' in wich George Koskotas owner of Crete' s Bank buyed Olympiacos Pereaus. Koskotas succed to transfer in Olympiacos great names of the age. With the biggest, the one of Lagios Dettari, that costed Greek drachmas to Koskotas to bring him in Olympiacos in 1988. In the middle of the season 1987-88 Olympiacos was doing very bad in the Greek League and Koskotas decided to bring more and even better players to the team and in the middle of the season he came to deal with great names like Dimitris Saravvakos, Manolas and more but he didn't managed to bring them in the club, because Koskotas Scandal appeared, because government discovered that from the safes of Crete's Bank were missing Greek drachmas!!! In 1988 Koskotas escaped from the country in United States hidding in a van, but arrested by the US police for penal offense his commited earlier in United States. He convicted and prisoned in United States until 1992 in which US government gave him to Greek courts and he convicted in 20 years of prison and he imprisoned in 2012, and the deficit of the bank was payed by the Greek government, meaning by the greek people. And nobody panished Olympiacos which still had these money. The corruption in Greek football didn't disappeared for long. In 1996 Socrates Kokkalis buyed Olympiacos and in contrast with Koskotas, he didn't tried to make a strong team, not even with stolen money. Kokkalis directly since he arrived took care of taking over the Greek Football Federation (Ε.Π.Ο.) and all it's referies, and Olympiacos was the champion every year since 2008-09 (excepting the season 2003-04), and the referies were giving to them 2-3 penalties in every match even with the lasts of the lasts, 2009-10 Olympiacos was having a crisis and he was changing president, and he lost the league ,Kokkalis sold the club to an even worst gangster, who just kept the system of Kokkalis

  • Reply Chaz Reuling April 23, 2019 at 3:54 am

    Bring back these videos

  • Reply asmodo blue678 April 26, 2019 at 5:07 am

    Ivan Savvidis is the most POWERFUL person in Greece at this moment, in a country where the money is the law he can't be threatened in the slightest. Why he pulled the gun? Wake up because he COULD, he can't be impacted with ANY real consequences. The guy owns OpenTV, has 1,6 billion worth enumerated, owns a football organization, had a number of companies and still multi-facedly owns the companies and pulls the strings, has a political party which is autonoetously galvanized as a interconnectively attached mafia rings and criminal organizations. Marinakis is actually a joke, a spoiled richboi who inherited a massive sum of money due to his Ypsilantis bloodline. Ivan Savvidis is legitimately self-made, not to admire the guy.

    It's funny because Savvidis' corruption is… kinda tasteful. I prefer it over the interconnected spawning Greek football corruption, at least it's centralized on one person. Marinakis is a massive fucking faggot.

  • Reply Marcus Rakyat May 1, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    Nice research and so much information. I personally learn a lot of such good quality video.

  • Reply Arand Stagthorn June 20, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    Fuck Marinakis and his drug cartel.

    We support Ivan Savvidis!

  • Reply Άρης Ιδόσογλου June 22, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    So, apparently after just 15 months of the incident, the Greek Football Federation which is controlled by the russian oligarch, passed a new law and Savvidis will be free to enter the stadium again. Nice huh? And of course poak won the double in Greece with referees, especially the Greek Cup where a clear penalty was denied from AEK.

  • Reply Despasian June 26, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    this video is EXCELLENT! So much content, i'm so glad i found it!

  • Reply Apostolos Papadimitriou August 9, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    The video is Russophobic, first of all, which is typical in the Anglo world.

    What Savvidis did was wrong but the referees in PAOK-Olympiacos and PAOK-AEK were shit and it was mostly their fault.

    The first one, because he decided that the game should be abandoned not because he really believed that this should happen but because the people of Olympiakos made him do it. (FIFA rules are not very clear but afaiu he could do it, even though, for example, for a worse incident in the Europa League match between Honved and Craiova recently, the game was not abandoned. I've seen worse things happening in La Liga in the past).

    The second referee changed his decision two times. If it was offside or not is not that important.

  • Reply Apostolos Papadimitriou August 9, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    I support AEK Athens, and for me PAOK fans have very bad qualities but Savvidis does not seem corrupted at all, unlike Marinakis. And the things about alignment with Tsipras are mostly bs.

  • Reply AnFista August 20, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    ivan savvidis was at the same neigboorhood with my grandfather.they played football together. and as my grandpa said he liked guns

  • Reply Dimitris Papadopoulos September 2, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Paok only

  • Reply George Spanos September 11, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    Props to you for the video..(from one of the few paok ultras that frequently watch your content)

  • Reply George Spanos September 11, 2019 at 9:21 pm


  • Reply kin vnv December 27, 2019 at 3:30 am

    We are waiting for an new report about others businessmen in Greece!

  • Reply Welton Sebastiao gonçalves January 10, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    Jente preciso de ajuda pôr favou

  • Reply Welton Sebastiao gonçalves January 10, 2020 at 12:21 pm

    Tenho 3 filhos tour desepregado

  • Reply Welton Sebastiao gonçalves January 10, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    Tour devendo muito

  • Reply Welton Sebastiao gonçalves January 10, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    Mim ajude com o Pouco

  • Reply Gilson Maximo January 10, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    Vasco da gama te espera!!

  • Reply Nikos Metalidis January 12, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    spread more lies, spread the american narrative .. russian oligarch he says

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