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Marinakis-owned Alter Ego pulls out of Forthnet takeover

Evangelos Marinakis celebrates during the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League 1/32 playoff finale game. (Photo by Federico Guerra Moran/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Shipping magnate and Greek businessman Evangelos Marinakis has pulled out of a deal to acquire telecoms operator Forthnet, the parent company of Greek pay-television broadcaster Nova, after protracted negotiations with three banks failed to secure the required funding.

The deal had been cast into doubt after missing the deadline for approval, which was understood to have been in late January, as Alter Ego looked increasingly unlikely to secure the funding it sought from the banks.

Forthnet reportedly has debts of up to €300m ($334.4m) and it was thought that Alpha Bank, one of three banks financing the deal alongside Piraeus and National, was unprepared to fully back Alter Ego’s push due to the debt level.

It is understood that the decision to abort the deal came from Marinakis’ side after it become apparent that Alpha would not relent to his demands. It is also understood that restructuring of Forthnet would have cost as much as €60m, which he was said to have been unwilling to fund.

The collapse of the proposed deal will raise questions about the future of Forthnet and Nova, which had appeared all-but certain to have secured a lifeline.

One market expert told SportBusiness: “Now it is a question of what comes next and what will become of Nova? Within two months I would expect to see a new owner who has no connection with football. The other story [if Nova fails to find a buyer] will be a disaster.”

Nova is one of Greece’s foremost acquirers of sports rights and holds several high-profile properties. The broadcaster currently holds the rights to tennis grand slam tournament Wimbledon, Euroleague basketball and two-thirds of the home-match rights to clubs playing in the Greek Super League 1.

The proposed takeover had received widespread condemnation from certain quarters of the Greek top flight. Had it been successful, it would have seen Marinakis, who also owns SL1 club Olympiacos, vicariously hold the rights to eight of the league’s 12 clubs. AEK Athens owner Evangelos Aslanidis has been one of the deal’s most vocal detractors.

PAOK is the sole outlier among SL1 clubs to not have a broadcast deal in place and has instead broadcast its home matches on its PAOK TV OTT platform. Individual matches are priced at €4.99, while it priced the whole season at €69.99.