Aristotle Socrates Onassis (Greek: Αριστοτέλης
Ωνάσης, Aristotelis Onasis; 20 January 1906 – 15 March
1975), commonly called Ari or Aristo Onassis, was a Greek
shipping magnate who amassed the world's largest privately owned
shipping fleet and was one of the world's richest and most famous
men. He was known for his business success, his great wealth and
also his personal life, including his marriage to Athina Mary Livanos
(daughter of shipping tycoon Stavros G. Livanos); his affair with
famous opera singer Maria Callas; and his 1968 marriage to Jacqueline
Kennedy, the widow of American President John F. Kennedy.
Onassis was born in
Smyrna and fled the city with his family to Greece
in 1922 in the wake of the Greco-Turkish War. He moved to
1923 and established himself as a tobacco trader and later a shipping
owner during the Second World War. Moving to Monaco, Onassis rivaled
Rainer III for economic control of the country through his
ownership of SBM and in the mid 1950s sought to secure an oil shipping
arrangement with Saudi Arabia and engaged in whaling expeditions. In
the 1960s Onassis attempted to establish a large investment contract,
Project Omega, with the Greek military junta, and sold Olympic Airways
which he had founded in 1957. Onassis was greatly affected by the
death of his 24-year-old son, Alexander, in a plane crash in 1973, and
died two years later.
1 Early life
2.3 Saudi Arabia
2.5 Olympic Airways
2.7 Project Omega
3 Relationships and family
3.1 Athina Livanos
3.2 Maria Callas
3.3 Jacqueline Kennedy
4 Death and legacy
5 See also
6 References and sources
7 External links
Onassis was born in Karataş, a suburb of the port city of
İzmir, Turkey) in
Anatolia to Socrates Onassis and Penelope Dologou.
Onassis had one full-sister, Artemis, and two half-sisters, Kalliroi
and Merope, by his father's second marriage following Penelope's
death. Onassis became a successful shipping entrepreneur and was able
to send his children to prestigious schools. When Onassis graduated
from the local Evangelical Greek School at the age of 16, he spoke
four languages: Greek (his native language), Turkish, Spanish, and
Smyrna was briefly administered by
Greece (1919–1922) in the
aftermath of the Allied victory in World War I, but then
Turkey during the Greco-Turkish War (1919–22). The
Onassis family's substantial property holdings were lost, causing them
to become refugees fleeing to
Greece after the Great Fire of
1922. During this period, Onassis lost three uncles, an aunt, and
her husband Chrysostomos Konialidis and their daughter, who were
burned to death in a church in
Thyatira where 500 Christians were
seeking shelter from the Great Fire of Smyrna.
At age 17 in 1923, Onassis arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by
Nansen passport, and got his first job as a telephone operator, with
the British United River Plate Telephone Company, while following
studies in commerce and port-duty administration at Aduanas
Argentinas. He later became an entrepreneur, creating an Argentine
import-export company, going into business for himself and making a
fortune importing English-Turkish tobacco to Argentina. He obtained
Argentine citizenship in 1929. Eventually he established his
first shipping trading company in Buenos Aires, Astilleros Onassis.
After gaining his first fortune in Argentina, he expanded his shipping
business worldwide and relocated to New York City, USA, where he built
up his shipping businesses empire while keeping offices in Buenos
Aires and Athens. His legacy in
Buenos Aires was the creation of a
shipping empire and a Hellenic Culture Fund providing youth
scholarships & a students/academic international exchange program
between Argentina, Greece,
Monaco and the United States; the programs
are funded and administered by the
Onassis Foundation and eventually
were under the managing direction of his daughter Christina Onassis.
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Onassis built up a fleet of freighters and tankers that eventually
exceeded seventy vessels. Onassis's fleet had Panamanian flags and
sailed tax-free while operating at low cost. Because of this, Onassis
could turn a profit in every transaction, even though he charged one
of the lowest prices in the merchant navy market. Onassis made large
profits when the
Big Oil companies like Mobil, Socony, and Texaco
signed long-term contracts at fixed prices with him for the use of his
fleet, while having trouble managing their own fleets, which operated
under US flags and thus at high cost.
Onassis arrived in the Mediterranean principality of
Monaco in 1953
and began to purchase the shares of Monaco's Société des bains de
Monaco (SBM) via the use of front companies in the tax haven of
Panama, and took control of the organisation in the summer of that
year. Onassis moved his headquarters into the Old Sporting Club on
Monaco's Avenue d'Ostende shortly after taking control of the SBM. The
SBM was a significant owner of property in Monaco, its assets included
the Monte Carlo Casino, the
Monaco Yacht Club, the Hôtel de Paris and
a third of the country's acreage. Onassis's takeover of the SBM
was initially welcomed by Monaco's ruler, Prince Rainier III as the
country required investment, but Onassis and Rainier's
relationship had deteriorated by 1962 in the wake of the boycott of
Monaco by the French President, Charles de Gaulle.
Onassis and Rainier had differing visions for Monaco. Onassis wished
the country to remain a resort for an exclusive clientele, but Rainier
wished to build hotels and attract a greater number of tourists.
Monaco had become less attractive as a tax haven in the wake of
France's actions, and Rainier urged Onassis to invest in the
construction of hotels. Onassis was reluctant to invest in hotels
without a guarantee from Rainier that no other competing hotel
development would be permitted, but promised to build two hotels and
an apartment block. Unwilling to give Onassis his guarantee, Rainier
used his veto to cancel the entire hotel project, and publicly
attacked SBM for their 'bad faith' on television, implicitly
criticising Onassis. Rainier and Onassis remained at odds over the
direction of the company for several years and in June 1966 Rainier
approved a plan to create 600,000 new shares in SBM to be permanently
held by the state, which reduced Onassis's stake from 52% to under
a third. In the Supreme Court of
Monaco the share creation was
challenged by Onassis who claimed that it was unconstitutional, but
the court found against him in March 1967. Following the ruling
Onassis sold his holdings in SBM to the state of
Monaco for $9.5
million ($271 million as of 2015), and left the country.
According to Frank Brady in Onassis: An Extravagant Life, Onassis's
words about the issue were: "We were gypped."
During the oil boom of the 1950s Onassis was in final discussions with
the King of Saudi Arabia for securing a tanker transport deal. Since
the Arabian-American Oil Co. (Currently, ARAMCO) had a monopoly on
Saudi oil by a concession agreement, the US government was alarmed by
the tanker deal. By 1954, a specific U.S. policy for Saudi Arabia, in
addition to strengthening the US "special position," was to take "all
appropriate measures to bring about the cancellation" of an agreement
between the Saudi government and Onassis to transport Saudi oil on his
tankers and "in any case, to make the agreement ineffective". [Doc.
128] The arrangement would have ended monopoly control of Saudi
Arabia's oil by American oil companies, but was forestalled by the US
For this reason he became a target of the US government and in 1954,
FBI investigated Onassis for fraud against the U.S. government. He
was charged with violating the citizenship provision of the shipping
laws which require that all ships displaying the U.S. flag be owned by
U.S. citizens. Onassis entered a guilty plea and paid $7 million.
Between 1950 and 1956, Onassis had success whaling off the Peruvian
coast. His first expedition made a net profit of US$4.5 million. That
business ended when The Norwegian Whaling Gazette made accusations
based on sailors' testimonials, such as one given by Bruno
Schalaghecke who worked on the factory ship Olympic Challenger:
"Pieces of fresh meat from the 124 whales we killed yesterday still
remains on the deck. Among them all, just one could be considered
adult. All animals that pass within the range of the harpoon are
killed in cold blood." The venture came to an end after the business
was sold to Kyokuyo Hogei Kaisha Whaling Company, one of the biggest
Japanese whaling companies, for $8.5 million. Norwegian
authorities suspected the involvement of
Hjalmar Schacht in Onassis's
whaling enterprises. Schacht had previously been connected with
Onassis's Saudi Arabian deals.
Olympic Airways Boeing 707, 1973
In 1956, Greek airlines in general faced economic difficulties,
whereby companies like TAE were affected by strikes and cash shortage.
The Greek government decided to give this and other companies to the
private sector, and, on July 30, 1956, Onassis signed a contract
granting him the operational rights to the Greek air transport
industry. When Onassis heard during the negotiations that he would not
be able to use the five Olympic rings in his logo due to copyright
issues, he simply decided to add a sixth ring.
Operation effectively started in 1957, with one DC-4, two DC-6s and 13
DC-3s. The following year saw 244,000 passengers transported. The
agreement lasted until December 10, 1974, when a number of factors
(namely, a series of strikes, shortage of passengers, fuel price
increase, and a law from the new Greek government forbidding Olympic
Airways to fire employees) led Onassis to terminate his contract.
Following this event, Paul Ionnidis, a high-ranking director from
Olympic Airways, said the following of Onassis: "Deep down, [he] did
not want to relinquish Olympic Airways. He found it flattering to own
an airline. It was something in which he took deep pride. It was his
accomplishment. He was married to the sea, but Olympic was his
mistress. We used to say that he would spend all the money he made at
sea with his mistress in the sky."
Onassis's time at the head of
Olympic Airways is known as a golden
era, due to investments he made in training and the acquisition of
cutting-edge technology. For example, in 1959, he signed a deal with
De Havilland to buy four Comet 4B jets. Onassis was also renowned for
his attention to service quality, which led him to buy gold-plated
utensils and candles for the dining service of the first-class
During 1974, the last year of Onassis's involvement with the company,
Olympic Airways transported 2.5 million passengers and had a work
force of 7,356 persons. At the time, his ownership of Olympic Airways
distinguished Onassis as one of only two men in the world to own a
private airline, the other being
Howard Hughes of TWA.
Onassis was involved in the privatization of the Greek national
airline and founded the privatized
Olympic Airways (today Olympic Air)
Stocks accounted for one-third of his capital, held in oil companies
in the USA, the Middle East, and Venezuela. He also owned additional
shares that secured his control of 95 multinational businesses in five
continents. He owned gold-processing plants in
Argentina and Uruguay
and a large share in an airline in Latin America and $4 million worth
of investments in Brazil. Also, he owned companies like Olympic
Maritime and Olympic Tourist; a chemical company in Persia; apartments
in Paris, London, Monte Carlo, Athens, and Acapulco; a castle in South
Olympic Tower (a 52-storey high-rise in Manhattan);
another building in Sutton Place;
Olympic Airways and Air Navigation;
the island of Skorpios; the 325 ft (99.06 m) luxury yacht
Christina O and, finally, deposit accounts and accounts in treasuries
in 217 banks in the whole world.
Onassis in 1970
In October 1968, amidst the Greek military junta and shortly after his
marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy, Onassis announced the launch of
Project Omega, a $400 million investment program that aimed to build
considerable industrial infrastructure in
Greece including an oil
refinery and aluminum smelter. Onassis had cultivated the Prime
Minister of Greece, Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos, for his assistance
with the scheme, loaning Papadopoulos the use of his villa and buying
dresses for his wife. The project was financially supported by the
American bank First National City, and Onassis's American financial
supporters eventually tired of the unfavourable terms demanded by him.
The project was heavily criticized by people such as Helen Vlachos, a
journalist from Athens. Another Greek Colonel, Nikolaos Makarezos,
preferred a deal offered by Onassis's rival, Stavros Niarchos, and the
project was eventually split between them. The failure was due partly
to opposition from influential people within the military junta, such
as Ioannis-Orlandos Rodinos,
Deputy Minister of Economic Coordination,
who opposed Onassis's offers in preference to Niarchos.
Relationships and family
Onassis's world-famous yacht
Christina O together with its tender, a
Onassis married Athina Mary "Tina" Livanos, daughter of shipping
Stavros G. Livanos and Arietta Zafrikakis, on 28 December
1946. Livanos was 17 at the time of their marriage; Onassis was 40.
Onassis and Livanos had two children, both born in New York City: a
son, Alexander (1948–1973), and a daughter Christina (1950–1988).
Onassis named his legendary super-yacht after his daughter. To Onassis
his marriage to Athina was more than the fulfillment of his ambitions.
He also felt that the marriage dealt a blow to his father-in-law and
the old-money Greek traditionalists who held Onassis in very low
esteem. The couple had become largely separated by the mid-1950s,
with the end of the marriage coming after Livanos found Onassis in bed
with a friend of hers at their home in Cap d'Antibes, the Château de
la Croë. The house was then acquired by Onassis's brother-in-law and
business rival Stavros Niarchos, who bought it for his wife, Eugenia
Livanos, Athina's sister. Onassis and Livanos divorced in June
1960 during Onassis's well publicised affair with Maria Callas.
Onassis and opera prima donna
Maria Callas carried on an affair
despite the fact that they were both married. They met in 1957 during
a party in
Venice promoted by Elsa Maxwell. After this first
encounter, Onassis commented to Spyros Skouras: "There [was] just a
natural curiosity; after all, we were the most famous Greeks alive in
the world." Callas and Onassis both divorced their spouses but did
not marry each other although their relationship continued for many
Onassis ended his relationship with Callas to marry Jacqueline
Kennedy, widow of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. They married on 20
October 1968 on Onassis's privately owned Greek island, Skorpios.
According to biographer Peter Evans, Onassis offered Mrs. Kennedy US$3
million to replace her Kennedy trust fund, which she would lose
because she was remarrying. After Onassis's death,
she would receive a settlement of US$26 million; US$150,000 each year
for the rest of her life. The whole marital contract was discussed
Ted Kennedy and later reviewed by André Meyer, her financial
Onassis's daughter Christina made it clear that she disliked
Jacqueline Kennedy, and after Alexander's death, she convinced
Aristotle that Jacqueline had some kind of curse due to John and
Robert Kennedy's assassinations.
During his marriage to Jackie, the couple inhabited six residences:
her 15-room Fifth Ave. apartment in New York City, her horse farm in
New Jersey, his Ave. Foch apartment in Paris, his house in Athens, on
Skorpios, his private island in Greece, and his yacht Christina O.
Death and legacy
Onassis financed the construction of the
Olympic Tower in New York.
Onassis died at age 69 on 15 March 1975 at the American Hospital of
Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, of respiratory failure, a
complication of the myasthenia gravis from which he had been suffering
during the last years of his life. Onassis was buried
on his island of
Skorpios in Greece, alongside his son, Alexander.
Onassis's will established a charitable foundation in memory of his
son, named the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, based
in the tax haven of
Vaduz in Liechtenstein, and headquartered in
Athens. The foundation received 45% of Onassis's estate, which would
have been left to his son, with the 55% remainder left to his
daughter, Christina. The foundation consists of two parts; a business
foundation which runs various businesses including shipping, and a
public benefit foundation which is the sole recipient of the business
foundation. The public benefit foundation funds the worldwide
promotion of Greek culture, funds the Onassis International Prizes for
achievement in various fields, and the funding of scholarships for
Greek university students.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis also received her share of the estate,
settling for a reported $10 million ($26 million according to other
sources), which was negotiated by her brother-in-law Ted Kennedy. This
amount would reportedly grow to several hundred million under the
financial stewardship of her companion Maurice Tempelsman.
Christina's share has since passed to her only child Athina, at the
time making Athina one of the wealthiest women in the world.
References and sources
^ "Aristotle Socrates Onassis". Encyclopædia Britannica.
^ a b "Biografia de Onassis Aristóteles Millonario Griego Armador de
Barcos". historiaybiografias.com (in Spanish). Retrieved
^ a b "La
Argentina de Onassis". La Terminal, ida y vuelta a la
realidad (in Spanish). 2008-12-07. Retrieved 2017-11-28.
^ a b New York Times, March 16, 1975, "Headliners, Aristotle Onassis
is Dead" by Gary Hoenig
^ "22 iconic photos of life at sea". Boat International. Retrieved
^ Cafarakis, Christian (1972). Ari: O Fabuloso Onassis. Editora
Expressão e Cultura.
^ Gerald A. Carroll. Project Seek: Onassis, Kennedy, and the Gemstone
thesis. Bridger House, 1994, ISBN 978-0-9640104-0-6, p. 50
^ Hussein, Waris, Onassis, the richest man in the world (1988), movie
^ a b c The Diva and the Tycoon", by Sally Bedell Smith, New York
Times, November 5, 2000
^ Evans 1987, p. 113.
^ Evans 1987, p. 114.
^ Evans 1987, p. 199.
^ "Obituary: Prince Rainier III of Monaco.", The Times, London, 7
April 2005, pg. 58.
^ Nuzum, Thomas. "Monte Carlo Has a Good Feud, but Glamor Is Gone",
The Chicago Tribune, Chicago, December 5, 1965, Section 1B, pg.
^ "Mr. Onassis In
Monaco Law Battle.", The Times, London, 22 August
1966, pg. 6.
^ Evans 1987, p. 204.
^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project.
"Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of
Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
^ Evans 1987, p. 206.
^ National Security Council (1954). "US Objectives and Policies with
respect to the Near East". The National Security Archive. p. 6.
Archived from the original (PDF) on December 13, 2002. Retrieved 10
^ The Federal Bureau of Investigations (1968). "
FBI Vaults File:
Aristotle Onassis Part 2 of 11". p. 5. Retrieved 6 March
^ Dorsey, Kurkpatrick (2013). Whaling and Nations: Environmental
Diplomacy on the High Seas. p. 151. access-date= requires
^ Evans 1987, p. 140.
^ Destiny Prevails: My life with Aristotle, Alexander, Christina
Onassis and her daughter, Athina, Paul J. Ioannidis, Livani
^ "Onasis.gr - Everything about Aristotelis Onasis". www.onasis.gr.
^ Evans 1987, p. 231.
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^ Evans 1987, p. 154.
^ Evans 1987, p. 190.
^ Evans 1987, p. 173.
^ "Video Biography of Aristotles Onassis". Thebiographychannel.co.uk.
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^ Cheslow, Jerry. "If You're Thinking of Living In/Peapack and
Gladstone; Fox-Hunting and High-Priced Homes", The New York Times, 7
August 1994. Retrieved 21 March 2011. "She does have a story about
Aristotle Onassis, who rented a home in neighboring Bernardsville with
his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis."
^ a b Michael Knipe. "The legacy of Onassis." The Times, London, 18
December 2001, pg. 11
^ McFadden, Robert D. "Death of A First Lady: The Companion; Quietly
at Her Side, Public at the End", The New York Times, May 24, 1994.
Accessed: 6 March 2015
^ Craig, Olga and de Quetteville, Harry. "Happy birthday, Athina. Here
is your £2.5 billion inheritance", The Telegraph, 26 January 2003.
Accessed: 6 March 2015
Ioannidis, Paul (2015). Destiny Prevails: My Life with Aristotle,
Christina Onassis and her daughter, Athina. New York:
Significance Press-paperback or kindle edition.
Evans, Peter (1987). Ari: The Life, Times and Women of Aristotle
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Gage, Nicholas (2000). Greek Fire, The Story of
Maria Callas and
Aristotle Onassis. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aristotle Onassis.
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Onassis Foundation official site
Aristotle Onassis: The Golden Greek (documentary on the life of
Onassis, in English with Greek subtitles)
FBI file on Onassis
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy (first husband, presidency)
Caroline Kennedy (daughter)
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy Jr. (son)
Patrick Bouvier Kennedy
Patrick Bouvier Kennedy (son)
Jack Schlossberg (grandson)
Rose Schlossberg (granddaughter)
Tatiana Schlossberg (granddaughter)
Aristotle Onassis (second husband)
John Vernou Bouvier III
John Vernou Bouvier III (father)
Janet Lee Bouvier (mother)
Lee Radziwill (sister)
Hugh D. Auchincloss
Hugh D. Auchincloss (stepfather)
Janet Auchincloss Rutherfurd
Janet Auchincloss Rutherfurd (half-sister)
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Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
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Jackie O (1997 opera)
Jackie (2016 film)
Stavros G. Livanos
Athina Livanos Onassis
/ Penelope Dologlou
/ Athina Mary Livanos
/ Eleni Tzortzoglou
/ Francine Grinda
Christine de Luynes
Francine Grinda Roussel
Hélène Grinda Lejeune
Stavros George Livanos
/ Arietta Zafirakis
George S. Livanos
Alexander S. Onassis Foundation
ISNI: 0000 0000 6316 5065
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