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