Aristotle Onassis, the wealthy Greek shipping tycoon: Aristotle Onassis was the most famous and wealthy Greek shipping tycoon of the 20th century and probably one of the most successful businessman ever. He was born in Smyrna Turkey in 1906. His father, Socrates Onassis, was also in the shipping business. He had 10 ships and 40 sailors working for him and he did very well in his business. Hence, Aristotle and his sisters had the opportunity to go to reputed schools and educate, in a time that education was a rare thing.
From immigration to ship business
Smyrna of the early 20th century was a prosperous city with a large community of Greeks. However, things took an unpleasant turn after World War I, when the Turks started a serious pogrom against the Greeks and forced them to leave their homes. The father of Aristotle Onassis lost his job and they all moved to Athens.
However, Aristotle would not stay in Athens for long. He decided to go to Buenos Aires Argentina having only $60 in his pocket. There he got his first job at the British United River Plate Telephone Company. While in Argentina, Aristotle engaged in tobacco importing business with help from his father back home.
He knew that this Turkish tobacco had soft flavor, unlike the Cuban one. He thought it would be very popular with the modern American women. Due to his unsuccessful negotiation with Juan Gaona, head of a giant Argentine corporation, he launched his own line of cigarettes. His business acumen earned him lot of money.
By 1925, Aristotle's fame as a wealthy and influential man enabled him to attend popular social events. Of course, his actions were sometimes disputed and he had to bribe certain politicians to achieve his goals.
All of Aristotle's actions did not go unnoticed by the FBI. He was charged with violation of shipping laws and also resorting to fraud against the U.S. Government in 1954. At that time, all U.S. ships carrying goods abroad had to be owned by U.S. citizens. Aristotle, in the case that followed, pleaded guilty and paid a fine of $7 million dollars. In 1957, Onassis engaged in airlines business and established Olympic Airways, the first Greek air company.
The great chance for Onassis came when large petroleum companies, like Mobil and Texaco, addressed to him to transport their goods with his ships. That time he made enormous profits. As all of Aristotle's ships had flags of Panama which transported goods tax-free and also ran at low cost. Though he charged much less from other companies, with each transaction of goods he had made maximum profits.
Aristotle's personal life was quite unstable, too. His first marriage was to Athina Livanos, a daughter of a Greek shipping magnate. They remained married for 15 years but both were not happy. From this marriage, he had a son Alexander and a daughter Christina.
However, Aristotle was unfaithful to her and had many extramarital affairs. The most famous affair of Onassis was to Maria Callas, the famous Greek opera singer. They met in late 1950s and started an affair while they were both married to other people. For her, Onassis was her chance to find happiness, but for Onassis, things were not so romantic. Their relationship lasted for many years, but it was never stable. Some even say that Callas gave birth to their son in 1959, but the baby lived only for a few hours.
Although they were both divorced and they could easily get married, Onassis devastated Callas with his sudden decision to marry Jacqueline Kennedy, the window of the 35th USA President J.F.Kennedy, probably for reasons of prestige. They got married in October 1968 in his private island, Skorpios, opposite Lefkada island. However, rumors say the he kept visiting Callas in Paris, even after his marriage to Jackie.
The great strike of fate came for Aristotle Onassis when his beloved son Alexander crashed with his aircraft and lost his life in 1973, at the age of 24. This accident raised a lot of conspiracy theories and was the end for Onassis. He went ill and died two years later in Paris, of bronchial pneumonia, a complication of myasthenia gravis.
According to his will, his daughter Christina inherited 55% of his fortune and the rest 45%, which would be Alexander's heritage, were used for the creation of Alexander S. Onassis Foundation to his honor.
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