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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 January 2015
20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 JANUARY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ‘Why I decided to An interview with M.A. Angeliades, the highest bidder on the North Afantou plot in Rhodes The magnitude of Greece's economic hardship over the last six years has been the ultimate test of the country's perseverance and ability to cope with its tremendous debt. One of the initiatives established to help pay back its creditors is The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, which was set up in 2011 to attract local and foreign investments in Greece through the sale of state assets. According to the fund's website, land development is a major focus, and plots across Greece's unique and remote landscapes are being sold for tourism developments to the highest bidders. The most recent of these plots is the North Afantou land parcel in Rhodes, which is 1,360 acres (over 5.5 million square metres). We speak to 73-year-old Greek American construction tycoon and investor Merkourios (Mike) Angeliades (M.A) who enthusiastically tells us why he decided to buy this exclusive stretch of virgin land overlooking the Mediterranean Sea for 26.9 million euros. Why Afantou Rhodes? M.A: I've been eyeing the Afantou plot in Rhodes since 1974. I've always wondered why one of the most spectacular beaches in Greece wasn't being utilised to its full potential. When I learnt that the Greek government was selling state assets and that one of these was the Afantou plot, I immediately expressed interest, especially because the plot was for sale, not simply for lease. I put in a bid and won the North Afantou plot. What potential did you see? M.A: I promised the local authorities to make Afantou one of the most impressive resorts in Greece and I will keep that promise. I possess the initial funds to get started but along the way, other private investments will be required to grow and operate the resort. I really want to focus on the golf course. It has to be of European and American standards. We intend to build six-star hotels, golf houses, holiday homes, a rehabilitation centre with 180 beds, a helicopter pad and a marina among many other facilities. I forecast the entire project at 350 million euros. Tourism in Greece, especially in Rhodes, is seasonal. While the weather is mild in the winter most hotels close from December to February. Now, golf is a much-preferred sport in mild weather and this is an opportunity to attract visitors during the so-called dead season. No-one likes to play golf under the extreme heat of summer. The objective is for the resort to be open and run on a year-long basis and to attract wealthier populations that will significantly contribute to the local economy. People who play golf are the ones that will also rent the yachts, shop in local shops and help local businesses. What is the long-term vision? M.A: At the moment we're at the contracting stage. The law firm we've hired to oversee the legal process is Fortsakis, Diakopoulos, Mylonogiannis and Associates. The architects that will draw up the Master Plan are Gensler Architecture and Design and we'll be hiring environmental, zoning and feasibility consultants. Once the Master Plan is ready and we've signed all the paper work, we'll be ready to start. This is a large-scale project for Greece and we hope the resort will be up and running in 10 years. We have the will to do things right and work collaboratively with our partners and local authorities. It will be truly disappointing if we have to split the plot and sell it to multiple buyers. The long term vision is to establish Greece's first ever golf community and make the Afantou plot into a Greek Riviera. What was your experience with the bidding process? M.A: We didn't encounter any issues. But we're still at the beginning. The bidding process was transparent and the government authorities were clear on their bidding rules and regulations from the start. The plot was distributed in two; the North Afantou plot and the South Afantou plot. We bid for both but won the North plot, however we are willing to work with the buyers of the Southern plot for the entire area to progress. At the moment, we're simply in talks. Why did you invest in Greece despite the unstable economic climate? M.A: A lot of my friends were sceptical because in the past they've had bad experiences. For me, Greece holds a special place in my heart. It's emotional and a sensitive matter. Nonetheless, Greece is one of the best countries for tourism. Its beaches, landscapes and climate truly are unique. Tourism in Greece, despite the current situation, is one of the safest investments. It is unlikely to fail if done right. What advice would you give to investors that want to invest in Greece but are hesitant? M.A: Greece is Greece. I've been everywhere. Its combination of beach, sun and weather really is unique. Investing in the right kind of tourism is the way forward. People have high expectations. If you invest in meeting these expectations with high quality infrastructure, you won't lose. People want more than just a guesthouse. They're after a holistic experience and Greece is in the perfect position to offer it. Source: Tekmon Geomatics LLP M.A Angeliades will no doubt put the vast experience gleaned from numerous previous endeavours into the 350 million euro North Afantu project in Rhodes.
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