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Athina Onassis - Biography

The accomplished French-Greek equestrian is the only surviving descendant of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis

Athina Onassis riding a horse in a competition
Hannah Watkin
Content Writer
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Athina Onassis' Early Life and Fortune

Born Athina Hélène Onassis on 25 January 1985, Athina became the heiress of one of the most exceptional entrepreneurs of the 20th century. Before her birth, the future competitive showjumper's grandfather Aristotle Onassis had amassed a multi-billion dollar empire which included two Greek islands, priceless artworks and property and investments all over the world.

When Aristotle died in 1975 – two years after his son was killed in a plane crash – the family fortune went to his daughter Christina, Athina's mother. However, after Christina's tragic death from a pulmonary edema in 1988 when Athina was just three years old, the vast estate devolved onto Athina.

Parental intervention

Christina's death prompted Athina's father, French pharmaceutical heir Thierry Roussel, to step in and raise her in Switzerland – while committing to creating a normal environment in which to bring up the heiress, instead of a life of luxury. A French national, her father Thierry spent a decade fighting to wrest control of his daughter's inheritance from the Greek businessmen Christina had left in charge, eventually persuading them to hand over $13 million a year to raise Athina. 

However, as a child, Athina received no more pocket money than her three half-siblings, the children of her father and his new wife Marianne 'Gaby' Landhage (later Roussel) who he married in 1990. The heiress even attended a regular state school, although persistent kidnap threats meant she had to be watched at all times by a team of former SAS guards who drove her to and from home in a bullet-proof limousine. 

Athina developed her passion for riding horses when she was very young, which led both to her career in equestrian sports and towards her future partner, 'Doda' Miranda.

Meeting Doda

By the time she was 17, Athina was ready to move to Brussels to pursue her passion for riding. While studying at Belgium's prestigious Nelson Pessoa riding academy in 2003, Athina first set eyes on her future husband – Brazilian equestrian Alvaro Alfonso de Miranda Neto, or 'Doda', as he is know.

Romance blossomed and Athina moved to Sao Paulo to be closer to her new beau. Her father, concerned about Alvaro's intentions, as well as the fact he was 12 years Athina's superior, took steps to tighten control over her inheritance. The teenager launched – and won – a legal battle against him, which is said to have taken a bitter toll on their relationship.

The couple wed in a lavish ceremony on December 3, 2005, and were together for ten years. In 2016, the pair separated and began complex divorce negotiations which last for a year. Their divorce was settled in November 2017.

Inheriting a Fortune

When Athina turned 18 on January 29, 2003, she gained access to the vast empire her grandfather had built. However, this fortune only represented one half of her legacy. Aristotle also intended his heir would manage the charitable foundation he'd set up in memory of his son Alexander, but this wouldn't be transferred to Athina until she turned 21.

Proceedings took an unexpected turn in 2005 when administrators changed the foundation's charter, removing Athina's automatic birthright to become chairman on her 21st birthday. Their insistance that as she knew little of Greek culture and did not speak the language, she had no right to head up such an important organisation, led to Athina never taking her intended role a the foundation.

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