Famous Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis died on this day, aged 69. At one time he was the owner of what was probably the largest private fleet in the world. He was also known for his relationships with famous women like Maria Callas and Jacqueline Kennedy, whom he married at the age of 62.
Aristotle Onassis was born in 1906 on the territory of what is now Turkey, but was a Greek by nationality, and an Orthodox Christian by faith. It is interesting that his father was named Socrates, his mother Penelope, and his sister Artemis – all family members were named after famous characters from Greek history and mythology. His family was quite wealthy, so Aristotle went to reputable schools and learned to speak four languages. However, after World War I, the Turks drove all Greeks out of Onassis’s home city of Smyrna (Turkish name: İzmir). Aristotle then emigrated to Argentina, at the age of only 17.
The young Onassis got by very well in Argentina and it was precisely there that he began his career and set the foundations of his wealth. Together with his father, he imported tobacco from Greece to Argentina. Greek tobacco is milder than the Cuban variety and, it seems, preferred by women. Onassis started his own cigarette factory, and it is possible that he smuggled a part of his tobacco. In any case, he got rich quite quickly and became better-respected in society. He became a millionaire when he was only around 20 years old.
Thanks to his influence on the Greek government, which probably included corruption, Aristotle made favorable contracts in view of taxes. He became the Greek vice-consul in Argentina, and had dual citizenship – Greek and Argentine. He increased his fortune greatly thanks to his fleet of oil tankers. Namely, he previously had a lot of experience with sea freight, mostly in the form of trade between Greece and Argentina, but a great advantage was also the fact that his ships operated under the flag of Panama and were exempt from taxes. Onassis allegedly needed only around six months to recoup the expenses of each new tanker, and would later only profit from each of them. He acquired a total of over 70 tankers and cargo ships for his fleet.
Onassis’s wealth soon became legendary. He allegedly had stocks in 95 companies worldwide, and owned two islands near the Greek coast (Skorpios and Sparta). He also owned apartments in Paris, London, Monte Carlo, Athens, and Acapulco as well as a castle in southern France. Together with his partner, he built a 52-story skyscraper in New York. He allegedly had accounts in 217 banks spread throughout the world. He called his big yacht Christina, after his daughter Christina Onassis.