Greek shipowner Dimitris Melissanidis announced on Monday he is quitting the leadership of AEK Athens, one of Greece’s top football clubs, which he handed over to his peer Marios Iliopoulos.

“Pardon me, but my voyage has reached its final destination — I am passing the reins to shipowner Mr Marios Iliopoulos,” Melissanidis said in a statement posted on the club’s website.

Melissanidis, founder of Aegean Shipping, said he is stepping back for age and health reasons after reaching all the goals he had set for himself for the club: bringing it back from relegation, leading it to two national championships and completing the construction of its brand-new football stadium.

“We started from zero and brought AEK to where she should be,” Melissanidis said.

No price was disclosed for the transaction but a Greek sports website said the club changed hands for €90m ($96.7m).

In joint statements with Iliopoulos later in the day, Melissanidis revealed he had received offers from overseas investment funds but did not want to leave the club in hands of people “he did not know”.

As for Iliopoulos, he stated he was all in to help AEK win championships.

“I will give my soul, my mind ... my whole being to conquer titles,” the Iliopoulos said.

Chequered history

Iliopoulos is a well-known owner of passenger ships operating under the Seajets brand.

He was one of the few players daring enough to buy cruise ships during the Covid crisis and has made considerable profits from flipping some of them after the pandemic.

A former rally race driver who is active in charity, Iliopoulos is not free from the controversy caused by the fraudulent sinking of the 150,000-dwt Brillante Virtuoso (built 1992) — a ship he owned.

The case gave rise to a prominent book by two Bloomberg journalists and also sparked initiatives to turn it into a TV film.

Greek shipowner Dimitris Melissanidis quits his leading role at the AEK football club. Photo:

Football ownership is a favourite pastime of Greek shipowners. The country’s three biggest teams in Athens and Piraeus have been owned and led by shipowners for most of their history.

Evangelos Marinakis of Capital Maritime owns Olympiacos while his peer Ioannis Alafouzos from Okeanis Eco Tankers is leading the Panathinaikos football club.