Christos Lambrakis: Press baron who used his empire to wield influence in Greece for more than half a century

Christos Lambrakis was invariably known as the Citizen Kane of Greece, the Patriarch of Greek media, the dark centre of diaploki (interwoven interests) and as a champion of democracy and patron of the arts. For over half a century he had eyes and ears throughout Greek society and was credited with making and breaking governments, yet hardly anything was written about him. He inspired fear, deference and admiration in equal measure. Until his death, a Google search under his name provided only a handful of superficial results. The only work about him published in Athens, in 1982, disappeared from bookshops the following day and its editor was advised not to pursue the matter. He complied but kept a single copy in his run-down office.

Christos Lambrakis was born in 1934 in Athens to a rising media empire, the Lambrakis Media Group or DOL, founded in 1922 by his father, Dimitri. In the 1950s he studied in London at the London School of Economics and throughout his life regularly returned out of passion for the city's theatre and opera.

In 1957, his father died and Christos took over the Group, namely the respected dailies Ta Nea and To Vima. By the time he was 30 he had established himself as the rainmaker of Greek politics. Eventually he commanded 20 per cent of the Greek readership, with three top-selling dailies, 24 weeklies and monthlies ranging from financial and political journals to family, sports and wedding magazines, and he also held influential stakes in television and publishing.

Like many democratic figures in Greece he suffered imprisonment in 1968 as a potentially hostile editor against the ruling military Junta. Unlike some other newspapers, such as Kathimerini, which closed shop in protest at the censorship laws, he kept publishing and the Group received loans from the Junta for the construction and housing of a new printing plant. In 1999 he went into electronic media, followed by e-commerce. The company went public in 1998 with Lambrakis retaining overall control.

It was recognised that once you worked for his Group you were tied for life because in a country that functions through connections this was the best in town. Over the years, many DOL journalists and editors went into politics. Three became Prime Ministers and dozens became ministers, often walking out of DOL straight into the ministry. More became MPs or MEPs. By chance or foresight, DOL men walked into ministries when lucrative government contracts were at hand; confidential state documents seemed easily accessible to him or to his chosen journalists. He kept an exclusive circle of leading figures from the most powerful party in Greece, PASOK, and of tried and tested editors and political commentators of Ta Nea and To Vima. On the eve of every general election they met to chat about forthcoming events. But unlike most of them, he was legendary for walking to work unprotected and driving his Volkswagen Beetle.

The number and quality of his titles could hardly be justified by usually average sales; the explanation lies in political connections. His travel agency, Travel Plan, had offices inside the Foreign Ministry; it was responsible for all the ministry's travel arrangements. Nothing went unnoticed. In this respect, DOL's self-description was apt: "the largest and most influential Company Group in Greece".

In 1994 his name was floated as a potential presidential candidate. This might have turned him into a Greek Berlusconi, but he never shared the Italian's appetite for publicity. He knew that international exposure implied international scrutiny.

His greatest love was music. It took a man of his stature to sweep aside petty political squabbles and rally round him big wallets to provide Athens with a world class Concert Hall, the Megaro Mousikis. He did the same in Thessaloniki, as well as supporting smaller projects in other parts of Greece.

As with the Greek empire of Alexander the Great, his death may herald the division and demise of his own. But his impact will survive, if only through his non-profit Lambrakis Research Foundation. He never married.

Constantine Buhayer



Christos Lambrakis, businessman: born Athens 24 February 1934; died Athens 21 December 2009.

News
people And here is why...
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?