GREEK TRAGEDY

WHY SHE’S PAINFULLY AWARE THAT MONEY CAN’T BUY HAP­PI­NESS

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... - Judy Kean

Athina falls to the Onas­sis curse

Athina Onas­sis had been do­ing so well at a showjump­ing com­pe­ti­tion in Cannes last June when it all sud­denly turned to cus­tard.

The heiress’ mul­ti­mil­lion­dol­lar horse, Cin­sey, re­fused to jump on sev­eral oc­ca­sions with Athina in­cur­ring mul­ti­ple penalty points, and then came the fi­nal in­dig­nity –

Cin­sey threw her rider.

Pro­fes­sional equestri­enne Athina (33) got to her feet and didn’t seem in­jured.

Nor did she seem too fazed – com­ing off her horse is an oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ard.

The year be­fore, she got her foot stuck in a stir­rup af­ter a fall dur­ing a com­pe­ti­tion in Paris; in 2014, she was dis­traught when her horse Ad Camille Z had to be put down af­ter crash­ing to the ground in an event in Geneva; and in 2012, she ended up in hos­pi­tal with two bro­ken ver­te­brae af­ter a fall dur­ing train­ing.

But it’s not just in the showjump­ing ring that things don’t al­ways go her way. In life too, Athina and her ex­tended fam­ily have been stricken by so much bad luck that when peo­ple talk about the Onas­sis curse, they’re not jok­ing.

The most re­cent trauma to be­fall Athina is the break-up of her mar­riage to fel­low show-jumper Al­varo de Mi­randa Neto (45). Known as Doda, he broke Athina’s heart af­ter he was dis­cov­ered by her se­cu­rity team in bed with an­other woman. It later emerged he’d had other af­fairs.

Doda’s in­fi­delity was yet an­other blow in a string of fam­ily mis­for­tunes and tragedies that stretch back to Athina’s grand­mother, Athina Li­vanos, known as Tina.

Renowned for her el­e­gance and beauty from a very young age, the sec­ond daugh­ter of ship­ping mag­nate Stavros Li­vanos caught the eye of one of her fa­ther’s ri­vals, Stavros Niar­chos, when she was only 14. But her fa­ther told Niar­chos he had to wait un­til Tina’s older sis­ter Eu­ge­nia was mar­ried.

While Niar­chos was bid­ing his time, along came yet an­other Greek ship­ping ty­coon, his arch neme­sis Aris­to­tle Onas­sis. Aris­to­tle was less pa­tient than Niar­chos and re­lent­lessly pur­sued Tina, woo­ing her with ex­pen­sive gifts un­til Tina’s fa­ther gave per­mis­sion for them to marry in 1946. She was 17, he was 40.

The mar­riage in­ten­si­fied the al­ready fierce ri­valry be­tween Niar­chos and Aris­to­tle, with the pair try­ing to outdo each other wher­ever pos­si­ble. They both com­mis­sioned yachts that were like float­ing palaces and built lux­ury homes on pri­vate is­lands. And, in a shock move, Niar­chos re­tal­i­ated to Aris­to­tle’s mar­riage to Tina by mar­ry­ing her sis­ter Eu­ge­nia.

Aris­to­tle and Tina had two chil­dren, Alexan­der and Christina, and Tina ap­peared to have a charmed life, di­vid­ing her time be­tween London,

New York, Paris, Athens and their is­land of Sko­r­pios.

But now that her hus­band had bagged his glit­ter­ing prize and she’d pro­duced an heir, the ty­coon turned his at­ten­tion to other women, in­clud­ing Greek-Amer­i­can opera diva Maria Cal­las.

Tina re­alised Aris­to­tle was in love with the singer af­ter Maria and her hus­band joined them for a trip on their lux­ury yacht. She filed for di­vorce at the end of 1959 and by 1961, had found her­self a new hus­band.

John SpencerChurchill had some­thing Aris­to­tle Onas­sis could not buy with all his mil­lions – a Bri­tish, blue-blood back­ground. He had a ti­tle, the Mar­quess of Bland­ford, and was the heir to the Duke of Marl­bor­ough.

Once tipped to marry Princess Mar­garet, John was re­lated to Sir Win­ston Churchill, and the baby girl who would grow up to be Diana, Princess of Wales. Home was the op­u­lent

Blen­heim Palace near Ox­ford.

Tina be­came the Mar­chioness of Bland­ford and would have been Duchess of Marl­bor­ough had she not di­vorced John in 1971 af­ter 10 years of mar­riage. The fol­low­ing year, John be­came the duke af­ter the death of his fa­ther.

Tina, mean­while, had suf­fered the ter­ri­ble loss of her older sis­ter Eu­ge­nia in 1970. The 44-year-old was found dead in her home on the pri­vate is­land of Spet­sopoula in mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances, with nu­mer­ous bruises on her body.

Eu­ge­nia’s hus­band Niar­chos was ar­rested and charged with in­vol­un­tary mur­der, but the charges were later dropped. He main­tained that the bruises were a re­sult of try­ing to re­vive her af­ter finding her un­con­scious. A coro­ner even­tu­ally ruled that she had died of an over­dose of sleep­ing pills.

The last few years of Eu­ge­nia’s life had been dif­fi­cult. She and Niar­chos had di­vorced in 1965 and he mar­ried heiress Char­lotte Ford – great-grand­daugh­ter of car maker Henry Ford – af­ter get­ting her preg­nant. Eu­ge­nia and Niar­chos did rec­on­cile, with their Mex­i­can di­vorce not con­sid­ered le­gal un­der Greek law, but were not back to­gether long when her life was cut short.

A year af­ter Eu­ge­nia’s death, and just months af­ter her di­vorce from John, Tina shocked the world by mar­ry­ing Niar­chos, her sis­ter’s wid­ower. It had been nearly 30 years since Niar­chos first fell for her.

It seemed Tina might fi­nally have found hap­pi­ness, but her world was rocked in 1973 by the death of her son Alexan­der (24) from in­juries re­ceived in a light plane crash.

She and Aris­to­tle – who by that stage was mar­ried to US Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s widow Jackie – were both dev­as­tated by the loss of their son, with a fam­ily mem­ber say­ing they “both lost the will to live af­ter Alexan­der died”.

A year later, in Oc­to­ber 1974, Tina was dead. Her body was found in the bed­room of the Paris man­sion she shared

with Niar­chos, who waited 24 hours be­fore an­nounc­ing her death. Ini­tially it was thought that like her sis­ter Eu­ge­nia, the 45-year-old had died from an over­dose of sleep­ing pills. But the of­fi­cial cause was later given as pul­monary edema (ex­cess fluid in the lung).

Just six months af­ter Tina died, her ex-hus­band Aris­to­tle also passed away. He’d been suf­fer­ing from a neu­ro­mus­cu­lar con­di­tion which led to res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure. He was 69.

The sole sur­vivor of the Onas­sis fam­ily was Christina, then 24. She had lost her brother, mother and fa­ther within the space of 29 months. She’d in­her­ited more than

$114 mil­lion from her mother, fol­lowed by a re­ported $741 mil­lion from her fa­ther, which was just over half of his es­tate.

Aris­to­tle had al­ready been groom­ing Christina to take over the run­ning of his ship­ping em­pire, which she did quite ca­pa­bly af­ter he died. But any of her suc­cess in busi­ness was over­looked when it came to her pri­vate life, which al­ways made the head­lines.

She was crit­i­cised for her lav­ish life­style – she had mul­ti­ple lux­ury homes around the world and was so ad­dicted to Diet Coke, she had “fresh” bot­tles flown from New York to Paris on her pri­vate jet. Her bat­tle with her weight was well doc­u­mented, and to top it off, she had in­her­ited her fa­ther’s looks – much to the hor­ror of her glam­orous mother, who ap­par­ently de­scribed her as an em­bar­rass­ment – and con­stantly fret­ted about her ap­pear­ance.

By the time she was 29, Christina had three very short­lived mar­riages to an Amer­i­can real-es­tate de­vel­oper, a Greek bank­ing heir and a Rus­sian ship­ping agent. She be­came smit­ten with Ger­man Mick Flick – the heir to the Mercedes-Benz for­tune − and when he told her he only liked blondes, she dyed her hair plat­inum.

But the man she was most ob­sessed with was Thierry Rous­sel, a mem­ber of a

French phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal fam­ily.

They met as teenagers and when Christina, who was four years older, made a play for Thierry in her early 20s, she was told he only had eyes for Swedish model Gaby Land­hage.

Ten years later, in 1984, she tried again, and this time she suc­cess­fully per­suaded Thierry to marry her. But he was still in love with Gaby and sev­eral months af­ter Christina gave birth to their daugh­ter Athina in Jan­uary 1985, Gaby had Thierry’s son Erik. Three years later, Gaby also bore him a daugh­ter, San­drine.

Christina handed over an es­ti­mated $88 mil­lion to Thierry dur­ing their mar­riage, but it wasn’t enough for him to stay faith­ful and they di­vorced in 1987, af­ter Christina found out about San­drine.

They stayed in touch, though, with Thierry es­cort­ing her to pub­lic events and call­ing her ev­ery day – re­port­edly for a fee. Ac­cord­ing to one re­port, she did a deal with him af­ter the end of their mar­riage to help her con­ceive an­other child. He sup­plied a bank of sperm on the prom­ise that he would get $14 mil­lion if a child was born.

Mean­while, Christina was lav­ish­ing her daugh­ter Athina with dolls dressed in Dior and her very own zoo. And to ward off her lone­li­ness, she paid an Ar­gen­tine polo player to be

her per­sonal com­pan­ion.

In Novem­ber 1988, she was stay­ing with friends in Buenos Aries when her maid found her dead in the bath. Aged 37, she’d suf­fered a heart at­tack brought on by a pul­monary edema – the same con­di­tion that killed her mother.

Athina, who was just three when her mother died, in­her­ited Christina’s $741 mil­lion for­tune. She was raised in Switzer­land by her fa­ther and Gaby, who had mar­ried and gone on to have an­other child, Johanna.

De­spite her vast for­tune, Athina went to lo­cal state schools and was given a small al­lowance. But her fa­ther re­ceived huge pay­outs for her care, while en­ter­ing into a pro­tracted tussle with the Greek ad­vi­sors put in charge of her money.

Even­tu­ally, 18-year-old Athina moved out of her fa­ther’s home and launched a le­gal bat­tle to over­turn a power-of-at­tor­ney agree­ment she’d signed, aged 14, in her fa­ther’s favour so she could take con­trol of her for­tune. Thierry signed over her as­sets to her in re­turn for a set­tle­ment ru­moured to be around $150 mil­lion.

Athina also took steps to reestab­lish her links with Greece, af­ter Thierry dis­cour­aged her from learn­ing the Greek lan­guage or be­ing raised in the Greek Ortho­dox re­li­gion.

Around the same time, horse-mad Athina met Doda, a former Olympic eques­trian from Brazil who was 12 years her se­nior. He left Ci­bele Dorsa, his long­time ac­tress girl­friend, and mother of his daugh­ter Vi­viane, for Athina and they were mar­ried in 2005, when Athina was 20.

Her fa­ther was not in­vited.

The cou­ple di­vided their time be­tween homes in Brazil, Bel­gium and the United States, fo­cus­ing on their rid­ing ca­reers.

“The so­cial whirl was never my thing,” Athina told an in­ter­viewer. Nei­ther was spend­ing money, her only ex­trav­a­gance be­ing horses.

A few years later, Doda’s ex Ci­bele asked the cou­ple if they would look af­ter Vi­viane and her son Fer­nando from her first mar­riage. She felt un­able to raise them due to her strug­gles with drug ad­dic­tion and men­tal health is­sues.

In 2011, just when it looked like Athina’s life might be touched by less trauma than her mother and grand­mother’s, tragedy struck when Ci­bele com­mit­ted sui­cide. Four years later, Doda’s in­fi­delity was un­cov­ered. It was also re­vealed he’d car­ried on an eight-year af­fair with a Bel­gian es­cort dur­ing their mar­riage.

The cou­ple were di­vorced last year, with Doda get­ting a set­tle­ment that was much less than he asked for. “Doda gets al­most noth­ing,” re­ported a Ger­man mag­a­zine.

Athina has kept a low pro­file ever since, apart from putting in the oc­ca­sional ap­pear­ance at horse-re­lated events. Friends say she just wants a quiet life.

While the sole sur­viv­ing mem­ber of the Onas­sis dy­nasty hasn’t com­mented on the so-called curse, she seems to un­der­stand only too well that money can­not buy hap­pi­ness. At 13 years old, she ap­par­ently said, “If I burn the money, there will be no prob­lem. No money, no prob­lem.”

Athina and ex-hus­band Doda are both keen eques­tri­ans.

ATHINA LI­VANOS (KNOWN AS TINA)

NIAR­CHOS TINA Tina first mar­ried Aris­to­tle Onas­sis and had two chil­dren with him, Alexan­der and Christina. She di­vorced him af­ter re­al­is­ing he was in love with Maria Cal­las (be­low). Aris­to­tle later mar­ried Jackie Kennedy (be­low right), while Tina shock­ingly mar­ried her ex hus­band’s ri­val Stavros Niar­chos (be­low left). JACKIE KENNEDY TINA ARIS­TO­TLE ALEXAN­DER TINA CHRISTINA ARIS­TO­TLE

THE ONAS­SIS DY­NASTY

TINA MARIA CAL­LAS

The daugh­ter of Aris­to­tle and Tina, Christina mar­ried Thierry Rous­sel and to­gether they had Athina. Thierry also had chil­dren with Gaby (far right), in­clud­ing Erik (above left), San­drine (cen­tre) and Johanna. THIERRY CHRISTINA THIERRY CHRISTINA ATHINA ATHINA THIERRY ATHINA

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