Dimitris Giannakopoulos, president and majority shareholder of Panathinaikos BC, called a press conference Friday morning to announce that due to what he called, “…betrayal of my own blood…”, he was stepping down from his position as club president and was going to give his ownership stake in the club to anyone interested in having it.
On Thursday, former player Michael Batiste was taken into custody by authorities as he arrived in Athens prior to the Fenerbahce-Panathinaikos Euroleague contest and was held due to an estimated EUR 200,000 that was owed in back taxes. In Greece, club’s pay the taxes for their players, so as the situation unfolded, Panathinaikos stepped in and essentially took care of things. Batiste was released Friday morning after being reportedly taken well care of and he will suit up Friday evening for the important Euroleague match-up. Batiste played for Panathinaikos BC for nine years and on this occasion of him returning to the Olympic Indoor Hall for the first time in a uniform other than the locals, the club planned a halftime program in his honor.
While that might seem to be the end of the saga, it turns out it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Giannakopoulos says that he’s been trying to get an accurate accounting of the club’s financial picture and while he thought he had been given it, he says it turns out he hasn’t been made aware of just how dire the club’s financial position actually is, including the fact that Batiste’s taxes hadn’t been paid. As the press conference continued, Giannakopoulos acknowledged that he wasn’t made aware that former coach Zeljko Obradovic was owed money and that it was the reason Obradovic departed. He also stated that other former players were owed large sums.
Before wrapping up the press conference, Giannakopoulos took a moment to compose himself, then stated:
“I regret to say this, but I have proof for all my claims. I can’t cover these debts although I wanted to keep Panathinaikos BC on a high level. Many of you, including fans have accused me, but I kept my mouth shut for long enough. I can not tolerate betrayal from my own blood, I can not continue being at Panathinaikos. That’s all” — Dimitris Giannakopoulos
He then got up without taking any questions and walked out.
He has stated that he will turn over his shares in the club to anyone willing to take them, but if no one does, they’ll revert Panathinaikos Amateur Club, which is the legal entity that owns a number of sporting clubs under the Panathinaikos name. Most likely a buyer or major investor will be sought to right the ship, but the financial picture as it stands will be a major deterrent to anyone wanting to step in.
In the mean time, majority ownership in a highly successful major basketball club is up for grabs…