The Greek Rich List – No Laughing Matter
Greece may be staring default in the face but the news is not all bad, says Caroline Allen. Comfortably endowed managers looking for a bright summer read might want to outlay
the modest sum of €8 (yes, just eight euros) to purchase the latest Greek Rich List
A casual observer might see riots, cutbacks, debt, poverty and recession as the colours of Greece.
But as one country expert explained, the accepted domestic social contract – which has worked well for years – is that authorities are allowed to be corrupt and inept, as long as the citizens can avoid taxes and claim benefits.
It has come as something of a surprise to all parties that outside nations might have any objection to this arrangement.
So the release of this year’s Greek Rich List (GRL) might provoke either awe (at how a technically bankrupt nation can still produce such outstandingly successful entrepreneurs) or outrage (that they have not been taxed into oblivion to pay for the squanderous ways of their countrymen).
The biennial List, established in 2007 by then UK-based Savvas Pavlou, documented the fortunes of the wealthiest Greeks and Greek Cypriots in Britain.
It then extended to include more than 300 Greeks from 13 countries around the world. Leaving aside the delicate matter of when a Greek is no longer a Greek, this year’s ranking lists the wealthiest Greeks globally, in numerical order.
Greek but global
The latest extension to the brand suggests that Greece is not simply a nation of loungers and scroungers, as some reports come close to implying.
There are about 16 million Greek and Greek Cypriots worldwide.
The modest Pavlou, surely now one of the best connected ever, describes the GRL as a rolling work-in-progress.
He admits that the task this time round has been hampered by the difficulties of tracking down people who don’t want to be tracked down, especially if their investments are in rather better shape than the home economy.
The name at the top of the list, Spyros Latsis, with €3,380m in the pot, is still based in Greece. But his countrymen flourish in foreign parts.
Second is US-based John Paul DeJoria, worth $4bn – an astonishing feat from a man who started out homeless and rose to become a billionaire philanthropist, based on his salon and hair care products business Paul Mitchell.
Dejoria is followed by the Haseotes Family, also resident in the US, worth $3.1bn.
Another Greek who made good in the US is John Calamos, who more than six decades ago found a few old stock certificates and started trading with his savings.
He went on to establish Calamos Asset Management, among many other enterprises.
Then there is the Cyprus connection, vitally important for Greece in so many ways.
Consider this: the southern Greek-sponsored Republic, with its divided capital Nicosia still hosting UN peacekeeping troops along the infamous ‘Green line’ against the Turkish-run north, takes over the EU presidency next July.
Greek Cypriots are a considerable force within the GRL. The first appears at number 31 – a substantial €450m for Efthyvoulos Paraskevaides, with the Lanitis Family at number 36 with €400m.
Andreas Pittas, Nicos Shakolas and hedge fund diva Elena Ambrosiadou follow up, as well as Alex Soteriou, with a respectable €36m off the founding of a solar cell firm.
The UK has always held a special place in the hearts of Greek entrepreneurs. Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the face of aviation empire easyJet, is still high on the rich lists, but faces challenges from people such as Theo Karpathios, who did quite well out of the flotation in March 2010 of his clothing company SuperGroup.
Central London has been the beneficiary for some months already of a discreet Greek high net worth influx, with wealthy purchasers sending prime residential values soaring.
Andreas Panayiotou is described as a “self-made British mogul”, but ranks 6th in the GRL with an estimated net worth of £400m (€448m).
He recently won hearts and minds in the capital with a moving public admission that for all his financial success, he had never learned to read properly.
We haven’t even started on Greece’s shipping fraternity, a highly resilient, responsive force that has weathered economic crises far more severe than this one. Shipping, remember, still carries 90% of world trade.
Incredibly, Larnaca-based Pavlou is set to stage a Greek Power Summit – in Athens – right under the noses of the Eurocrats, bringing together five GRL billionaires and more than 40 millionaires.
They wanted to meet each other, he said, so he arranged it. Clearly, the IMF and the EU are talking to the wrong people.