Big Boys, Big Ships: The legend of the Greek tycoons

Who has the largest fleet, the longest yacht, the most beautiful women, the ultimate private island? The rivalries of the Greek shipping set once held the world in thrall, each vying to beat the others in the worlds of money, ships and women. Who were these tycoons of the sea?

Big Boys, Big Ships: The legend of the Greek tycoons


Stavros G. Livanos: Father of the Bride

“I have no money, only ships,” said the father figure of the Greek shipping dynasties, a self-made man born into a sailing family and known for his work-roughened hands – as well as his (later) vast wealth. You might assume he’d have been proud of his sons-in-law, Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos, but he was not. He thought of them as bragging playboys. Their respective marriages to his daughters, Athina and Eugenia, did not last long.





Big Boys, Big Ships: The legend of the Greek tycoons

Aristotle Onassis: The World is Not Enough

His love interests famously included an affair with Maria Callas and a second marriage to Jackie O. (the first reportedly ended when Athina Livanos walked in on Aristotle in the arms of the opera-singer, aboard the yacht named after his daughter). Perhaps this should have brought him a life of pleasure – if it hadn’t been for his brother-in-law, Stavros Niarchos. When ‘Ari’ built a large tanker, his rival trumped it with a larger one. Niarchos’s giant yacht ‘Creole’ spurred Onassis to fight back, with the superyacht ‘Christina’ (the one named after his daughter). Their rivalry was fierce, unbrotherly, and the stuff of soap operas.





Big Boys, Big Ships: The legend of the Greek tycoons

Stavros Niarchos: Artificer

How to fight back, when arch-rival (and one-time brother-in-law) Aristotle Onassis first charms his way into bed with the greatest living opera diva, and then marries the most famous widow in the world? On the oceans and among the on-shore jet-set, Ari always seemed to be one step ahead. Then the eternal number two discovered a new focus for his ambitions: the arts. He acquired the collection of the great Hollywood gangster Edward G. Robinson, and bought further works that included Rubens, Goya, Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso. In this area at least, Ari couldn’t touch him.





Big Boys, Big Ships: The legend of the Greek tycoons

John Spyridon Latsis: The Silent Partner

He was the great unknown in the golden era of the Greek shipping magnates. He, too, came from a humble background and made his fortune with ships – and he bought banks. Latsis shied away from publicity and was deeply involved in charitable works but, when it came to the crunch, his parties had a guest list that could rival Onassis and Niarchos. Among the guests on his yacht were Prince Charles – with both Diana with Camilla – as well as George Bush and Marlon Brando. Latsis’ love life appeared less turbulent than those of his contemporaries, but the planned marriage between Paris, his grandson, and Paris Hilton, granddaughter of hotel tycoon Conrad Hilton, never went ahead. Perhaps they couldn’t decide where to go on honeymoon?


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