Early life, family, educational background
French-Greek equestrian and heiress, Athina Hélène Roussel, was born on 29 January 1985 in the American Hospital of Paris, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Athina is the only child of Aristotle Onassis’ daughter Christina Onassis, and the only living descendant of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle. She was born to Christina and her fourth husband, French pharmaceutical heir Thierry Roussel.
Christina and Thierry were married from 1984 to 1987, divorcing due to Thierry’s affair with Swedish model, Marianne ‘Gaby’ Landhage, with whom he had two children. In November 1988, Christina passed away from pulmonary edema in Buenos Aires, when Athina was only three-years-old and in Switzerland being taken care of by a nanny.
Christina’s body was flown to Athens for the funeral, then to the private island Skorpios Christina inherited from her father for a private burial ceremony. Thierry attended his ex-wife’s funeral and service.
After her mother’s passing, her father and his mistress raised Athina along with their children. Athina has three half-siblings, all from Thierry and Gaby – Erik Roussel was born in July 1985, Sandrine Roussel in May 1987, and Johanna Roussel in July 1991. In 1990, Thierry and Gaby married with Athina, Erik and Sandrine witnessing their vows. Gaby encouraged the children to grow up with a love for nature and animals, which reportedly led to Athina’s passion for horses.
When speaking to Hello Magazine about the pocket money Athina received, her father said, ‘I want her to know that money is not a gold statue which you must venerate.’
He never gave Athina more pocket money than her other siblings, which she would save to use later to spoil her beloved horse.
During her years of early education, she attended a school in Lussy-sur-Morges, Switzerland, but received a lot of death threats which meant that Athina had 24/7 guarded surveillance by a team of former SAS, who drove her to and from school in a bullet-proof limousine. In the summer of 2003, she completed a preparatory course in Brussels, Belgium, after passing her baccalauréat exam.
Family’s personal life
Aristotle Onassis, Athina’s grandfather, was one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the 20th century, primarily a shipping magnate. His multi-billion dollar empire included priceless artworks, two Greek islands, property around the globe and other investments.
Upon his passing in 1975, his fortune went to Christina, his only living child, as his son, Alexander, was killed two years prior in a plane crash.
Thierry was Christina’s fourth husband. She was very much in love with him and chose to forgive him when he confessed that he made another woman pregnant, even while Christina was carrying Athina – Gaby gave birth to Erik only six months after Christina gave birth to Athina. When Gaby fell pregnant to Thierry again, two years later, Christina divorced him.
There is a conspiracy theory known as the ‘Onassis curse.’ Athina’s grandmother, whom she was named after, passed away when she was 45; Alexander was 24 when he died in the plane crash, and only a year later, her grandfather Aristotle, passed due to myasthenia gravis, which is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease.
Christina’s passing when Athina was only three years old meant that she eventually had to fight her father legally over control of her fortune. Athina also went into legal battles over the death of her horse in a show jumping accident.
As a child, Athina fell in love with horses and began riding them. She entered her first recorded event in Jerez, Spain in 2001, and placed second. This experience encouraged her to compete in the Avlona Riding Club in Athens as a Greek Citizen under the name Athina Onassis. She is a competitive showjumper at the Global Champions Tour for select events.
In 2007 she established a show jumping competition, The Athina Onassis International Horse Show, which started in São Paulo, Brazil but in 2009 was moved to Rio de Janeiro, and moved again in 2014 to Pampelonne beach in Saint-Tropez, France.
In November 2012 she suffered a spinal injury after being thrown from her horse, but returned to competing in January 2013, and represented Greece in the 2013 European Show Jumping Championships, and then the 2014 World Championships.
She co-owns a horse training and breeding business in Fleurus, Belgium, AD Sport Horses, with her ex-husband, Alvaro ‘Doda’ de Miranda Neto.
At the beginning of their relationship they would attend GTG equestrian events together, but Athina started attending them solo after allegations of Doda’s infidelity became public. In 2014, Athina ranked 13th and Doda ranked 24th, but in 2016 she placed 88th and he 74th. It has been speculated that their poor performances in 2016 were due to marital problems.
In February 2014, she bought a 5.6-acre (2.3-hectare) estate and barn for $12 million in Wellington, Florida, which she sold for $12.75 million in April 2017.
As Christina did not trust her ex-husband, Thierry, she arranged Athina’s inheritance of approximately $500 million to be managed by four Greek advisers, Theodore Gabrielides, Paul Ioannidi, Stelio Papadimitrious, and Apostolos Zabelas until Athina came of age. Thierry became the fifth manager of Athina’s money following Christina’s passing. Christina wrote to Stelios Papadimitriou, the board president, to say, ‘the job of the protectors is to keep the door [to my fortune] closed…because they know too well that I have a weakness for this man, and therefore I will always be subject to abuse.’
For a decade, Thierry fought for control over Athina’s inheritance from the Greek businessmen, and he eventually convinced them to give him $13 million a year to raise her.
Athina only received a small amount of money as an allowance, despite the hefty sums her father demanded. When she was around 13, Thierry took Athina to a courthouse in Switzerland and forced her to sign documents which stated that she ‘felt great aversion to anything Greek, even though she knows that her mother, her grandfather, and her fortune come from Greece.’ By getting her to sign this document, Thierry was legally allowed to go against Christina’s wishes of Athina being reared ‘in the Orthodox religion’, and ‘learn the Greek language so as to speak it fluently.’ Today, Athina is fluent in English, Swedish, French, and Portuguese and reportedly takes Greek lessons.
The ‘graybeards,’ as the press dubbed the four board members, accused Thierry of depriving Athina of her Greek heritage and isolating her. The accusations came after her father accused the board of plotting against Athina.
He threatened to move back to France, where the income tax on her estate would be much higher, because the board wanted to approve all of his expenditures made on her behalf.
A Swiss court took the management of her fortune away from the board members and her father, and handed it over to an auditing firm in Lucerne, Switzerland – KPMG Fides – in 1999. Less than four years later, Athina moved out of her father’s home to Brussels, dropped out of school, renewed her Greek passport, and began preparing a case against her father to revoke the document he had made her sign.
She took control of her mother’s inheritance on her 18th birthday, gaining control of 87 companies, 217 bank accounts, a fleet of 38 tankers, hotels, and an airline. In 2004 she began fighting for control over her entire fortune, including that which her father had hidden.
By the end of the year, he had signed over all power-of-attorney rights to Athina, in exchange for a $100 million settlement.
In 2006 after her 21st birthday, she tried to become the President of the Onassis Foundation but didn’t win her case. The board denied her because they claimed that she was unqualified as an heir to her grandfather’s estate, due to her having no connection with Greek heritage, language, culture, or religion; that she had no working experience, and never attended college or university. However, she is still fighting to become President of the organization, and has learned Greek to aid her efforts.
Athina enrolled into an equestrian school in Belgium when she was 17; the owner, Nelson Pessoa, a former Brazilian rider, introduced Athina to another student, Alvaro ‘Doda’ de Miranda Neto.
— Angelica Behm (@angelicabehm) April 10, 2017
Doda proposed in 2004, and even though her father did not approve of the relationship, Athina accepted, and they married on 3 December 2005 in the grounds of São Paulo’s Maria Luisa and Oscar Americano Foundation. To keep the ceremony safe, the guests were mailed magnetic cards that would grant them security access, and plastic sheets were hung outside the venue, which made any paparazzi photographs come out blurry.
Her wedding gown was a silk Valentino dress valued at $70,000. The pair had two ceremonies, a Catholic mass followed by a Greek Orthodox liturgy. The honorary Greek consul in Brazil, Konstantinos Kotronakis, was the best man in the Greek service. Doda’s father, Ricardo Miranda, walked Athina down the aisle, and according to one source, ‘Athina didn’t cry. Doda did.’
Theirry and Gaby were not invited, but Athina’s half-siblings all attended. According to sources, Athina gifted her new husband with a prized thoroughbred horse. Doda signed a prenuptial agreement, but the details were never publicly disclosed. Their extravagant celebrations led to their guests drinking around 1,000 bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne. Upon their marriage, Athina dropped ‘Roussel’ from her name and changed her name to Athina Onassis de Miranda.
They initially lived a tranquil life together in their villa in Antwerp, São Paulo. In an interview with L’Eperon, she said, ‘Everyone likes living in their way. Me, I like the tranquility we have.’
When they were newly married, Doda’s daughter with Cibele Dorsa, Viviane was five-years-old. Viviane moved in with Athina and Doda, and four years later, her older half-brother, Fernando, joined the trio. Fernando’s father was Cibele’s first husband.
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Golden heiress Athina Onassis finally managed to put an end to her marriage with Brazilian rider Alvaro de Miranda Neto known as Doda. The low-profile, ‘silent’ girl took a sound revenge: she pays her former husband for 11 years much less that he had asked. #AthinaOnassis proved in the court that he had a relationship with a Belgian model for 8.5 years.
When Fernando was 13 years old, his mother asked Athina and Doda to take him in and raise both children because of her drug and mental issues. In March 2011, Cibele jumped out of the window of her São Paulo apartment on the seventh floor. She left a message for Doda in the Brazilian magazine Caras which read, ‘May God forgive you one day for what you did and continue to do to me, to Athina, and to the kids.’
Following reports of Doda’s infidelity, the couple separated in 2016. Athina froze their joint bank accounts the moment she found out he was cheating, divorce negotiations began soon after, and Athina hired Robert Stephen Cohen, a high-profile divorce lawyer. Their divorce was settled in November 2017.
According to her close friend, Konstantinos Kotronakis, Athina is a lot like her late grandfather. ‘Athina is reserved and takes everyone’s measure before she speaks… nobody takes the lead with her. She marks her own way.’
Athina is 5ft 7ins (1.7m) tall and weighs 135lbs (62kgs). She has brown eyes and naturally brown hair, but she often adds blonde highlights.
Net worth and salary
As of early 2020, her net worth has been estimated at over $1.5 billion.
Christina inherited 55% of Aristotle’s fortune; the remaining 45% – except for the $26 million settled upon Jacqueline Lee Kennedy Onassis – was given to the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation, which was founded in honor of Athina’s late uncle, Alexander Onassis who passed away in 1973. In 1992, The New York Times cited a report from Associated Press and named then seven-year-old Athina one of the year’s new billionaires. She is often referred to as a ‘billionaire heiress,’ but estimates are exactly that, as for example she sold Skorpios island to trusts connected with fellow equestrienne and Russian entrepreneur Ekaterina Rybolovleva, specific details unknown.