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Karonis vs JP Morgan: How we got to “I will not hand over Viva Wallet”

The wide smiles, January afternoon, two years ago in the Roof Garden of the “Hotel Grande Bretagne”, where one of the biggest deals in the financial sector in our country was celebrated, did not last long.

JP Morgan tycoon Jamie Dimon and Viva Wallet majority shareholders Haris Karonis and Makis Antipas may have appeared embraced and optimistic that their alliance would turn into a win-win affair, but the “union “, for many serious reasons, turned out to be extremely difficult.

To the point that two years after the celebrations, the agreement with a valuation of 1.7 billion euros for the entry of the American giant in the share capital of Viva, which marked the first Greek “unicorn” (ed: technology company with a valuation of more than 1 billion) and was linked like no other with the investment spring in the country, is now in danger of falling on the rocks, if it has not already happened…

Makis Antipas, Jamie Dimon and Haris Karonis back in the good days of the mega deal

“It’s not Viva in a legal battle with JP Morgan, it’s the shareholders.

That’s what I told my daughter, who saw the news on the Internet and was asking me.

I say the same to you, the employees. Because Viva is a big company and it will become even bigger,” Karonis was saying before the company’s employees last Thursday, trying to explain what was going on in a highly charged speech.

“This dispute is between shareholders and for all of us at Viva we will continue as if it is business as usual.

However, I make no secret that I am disappointed that the main shareholder (WeRealise, of Caroni-Adypa interests) is entering this dispute to defend its rights and Viva’s future.

We respect JP Morgan, after all it is the largest bank in the world. But the truth is that since the day it joined the company it has not added to the value and growth of Viva, on the contrary it has hindered its expansion.

We will not deviate from our strategy.

Let’s focus on what we have achieved and the huge potential that opens up to make Viva even bigger,” he concluded.

It was prefaced last Wednesday – ironically, on the day of… Valentine’s Day – the filing of a lawsuit and counterclaim by both Viva’s founders, who control 51.5% of the company, and JP Morgan, which controls the remaining 48.5% (having paid a total of EUR 825 million).

A move that is the starting point for a legal thriller in which the London High Court will ultimately be called upon to decide whether the original agreement between the parties, which, among other things, provides for a full takeover of Viva by the investment giant by 2025 at an independent valuation, has been breached, and ultimately who will control it, as behind the scenes reports indicate that moves are already being made by Karonis to raise funds in what appears to be a “David versus Goliath” standoff.

The two sides have already prepared their arsenal, with the multinational law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer acting on behalf of JP Morgan, while WeRealize.com Ltd (WRL), the main shareholder of Viva Wallet, is represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

Note that Freshfields and Quinn Emanuel are law giants with offices around the world and clients including major multinationals.

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But what about Viva Wallet itself and its employees?

Last Thursday, Karonis assured that not a ” single hair” of the strategy that has already been laid out is being changed and that the team must remain focused on the goals.

After all, he stressed, the battle is not between Viva and JP Morgan, but between Viva’s shareholders.

“We intend to continue to grow in Europe and expand in the US, in line with the original agreed strategy clearly set out in the Shareholders Agreement between the company, the controlling shareholder -WeRealize-, and the minority shareholder acting as an investor, JP Morgan,” the Viva founder noted.

He continued: “We have achieved so much together. We are the first technology bank in Europe for payments.

We are in the top two companies attracting people through the ‘Tap on Phone’ app.

And we are leading the new era of payments with our ”Tap on Any Device” technology, which supports any device and any checkout flow (”check out flow” – ed: the steps to execute and complete a digital transaction).

Moreover, with its smart check out and zero-code approach Viva dominates the sector, leading the revolution in the ‘check out flow”’.

In conclusion, he underlined: “There is no derailing our strategy.

Let’s focus on what we have achieved so far and the absolutely enormous potential that lies ahead of us.

For us at Viva, it’s business as usual.

We will make Viva an even bigger company!” The sequel coming soon…

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