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Aristotle Onassis

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Title: Aristotle Onassis  
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Subject: Athina Onassis Roussel, Alexander Onassis, Athina Livanos, Stavros G. Livanos, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Collection: 1906 Births, 1975 Deaths, Aviation in Greece, Bouvier Family, Burials in Greece, Burials in Skorpios, Businesspeople in Aviation, Businesspeople in the Tobacco Industry, Deaths from Myasthenia Gravis, Deaths from Pneumonia, Disease-Related Deaths in France, Greek Billionaires, Greek Businesspeople, Greek Businesspeople in Shipping, Greek Chief Executives, Greek Diplomats, Greek Emigrants to Argentina, Greek Expatriates in France, Greek Expatriates in Monaco, Greek Expatriates in the United Kingdom, Greek Expatriates in the United States, Greek Orthodox Christians, Greek Refugees, Infectious Disease Deaths in France, Livanos Family, Olympic Airlines, Onassis Family, People from Bernardsville, New Jersey, People from Izmir, Smyrniote Greeks, Stateless People
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Aristotle Onassis

Aristotle Onassis
Aristotle Onassis in 1967
Born Aristotle Socrates Onassis
(1906-01-15)15 January 1906
Smyrna, Ottoman Empire
Died 15 March 1975(1975-03-15) (aged 69)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Resting place Island of Skorpios Cemetery
Nationality Greek
Occupation Shipping tycoon and businessman
Spouse(s) Athina Livanos (m. 1946; div. 1960)
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (m. 1968-1975)
Children Alexander (1948-1973)
Christina (1950-1988)
Relatives Socrates Onassis (father)
Penelope Dologu (mother)
Artemis Garoufalidis (sister)
Kalliroe (half-sister)
Merope (half-sister)

Aristotle Socrates Onassis (Greek: Αριστοτέλης Ωνάσης, Aristotelis Onasis; 15 January 1906 – 15 March 1975),[1] commonly called Ari or Aristo Onassis, was a Greek shipping magnate and businessman.[2][3] Onassis amassed the world's largest privately owned shipping fleet and was one of the world's richest and most famous men.[4] He was known for his business success, his great wealth and also his personal life, including his marriage to Athina Livanos, daughter of shipping tycoon Stavros G. Livanos, his affair with the opera singer Maria Callas and his marriage in 1968 to Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of the American president John F. Kennedy.

Onassis was born in Smyrna and fled the city with his family to Greece in the wake of the Greco-Turkish War in 1922. Onassis moved to Argentina in 1923 and established himself as a tobacco trader and later a shipping owner during the Second World War. Moving to Monaco, Onassis rivaled Prince 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 less than two years later.


  • Early life 1
    • Anatolia 1.1
    • Argentina 1.2
  • Business 2
    • Shipping 2.1
    • Monaco 2.2
    • Saudi Arabia 2.3
    • Whaling 2.4
    • Olimpic Airways 2.5
    • Investments 2.6
    • Project Omega 2.7
  • Relationships and family 3
    • Athina Livanos 3.1
    • Maria Callas 3.2
    • Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy 3.3
  • Death and legacy 4
  • See also 5
  • References and sources 6
  • External links 7

Early life


Onassis was born in Karatass, a suburb of the port city of Smyrna (now İzmir, Turkey) in Anatolia. His parents were Socrates and Penelope Dologu. 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 Aristotle Onassis graduated from the local Evangelical Greek School at the age of 16, he spoke four languages: Greek (his native language), Turkish, Spanish, and English.[5][6]

Smyrna was briefly administered by Greece (1919–1922) in the aftermath of the Allied victory in World War I, but then Smyrna was re-taken by 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 Smyrna in 1922.[7] During this period, Aristotle 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.


In 1923, at the age of seventeen, Aristotle Onassis left for Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Nansen passport, and got his first job as a telephone operator, with the British United River Plate Telephone Company.[4] He went into business for himself and made a fortune importing tobacco to Argentina.[8] Eventually he relocated to New York where he built up his shipping businesses.[8]



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 Monte Carlo casino, the Monaco Yacht Club, the Hotel de Paris and a third of the country's acreage.[9] Onassis's takeover of the SBM was initially welcomed by Monaco's ruler, Prince Rainier III as the country required investment,[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13] 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,[14] which reducing Onassis's stake from 52% to under a third.[15] 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 ($67.2 million as of 2016),[16] and left the country.[17]

Saudi Arabia

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 Aristotle 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 government.[18]

For this reason he became a target of the US government and in 1954, the 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.[19]


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.[20] Norwegian authorities suspected the involvement of Hjalmar Schacht in Onassis's whaling enterprises. Schacht had previously been connected with Onassis's Saudi Arabian deals.[21]

Olimpic Airways

Olympic Airways Boeing 707, 1973

In 1956 Greek airline were facing hard times and companies like TAE were under strikes and cash shortage. Greek government decide to give away those public companies to the private sector and on July 30, 1956, Aristotle Onassis signed a contract granting him the operational rights to the Greek air transport sector. When Onassis heard during the negotiations that he would not be able to use the five Olympic rings due to copyright issues, he just replied: "That's not a problem. We will add a sixth ring." Operation effectively started in 1957 with one DC-4, two DC-6s and 13 DC-3s and 244,000 passengers were transported every year.

The agreement lasted until December 10, 1974 when after a series of strikes, shortage of passengers, fuel price increase, and a law from the new Greek government forbidding Olympic Airways to fire employees (like other companies were doing at the time) Onassis has decided to denounce the agreement that he had with the Greek government

In the words of Paul Ionnidis, a high rank director from Olympic Airways: "Onassis deep down 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 ate sea with his mistress in the sky"

The time Olympic Airways was under Onassis administration is know as the golden era, due to investments made in training and the acquirement of cutting edge of the technology, like when in 1959 he signed a deal with De Havilland to buy four Comet 4B jets. Other notable thing was Onassis attention to service quality, like when he bought gold-plated utensils and candles for the dining service of the first-class section.

During 1974, the last year under Onassis era Olympic Airways has transported 2.5 million passengers and had a work force of 7,356 persons. Olimpic Airways made Onassis one of the two man in the world at the time to own a private airline company. The other one was Howard Hughes of TWA[22]


Onassis, 1932

Onassis was involved in the privatization of the Greek national airline and founded the privatized Olympic Airways (today Olympic Air) in 1957.

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 on 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 France; the 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.[23]

Project Omega

Onassis in 1970

In October 1968, amidst the

  • Alexander S. Onassis Foundation official site
  • (documentary on the life of Onassis, in English with Greek subtitles)Aristotle Onassis: The Golden Greek
  • FBI file on Aristotle Onassis

External links

  • Ioannidis, Paul (2015). Destiny Prevails: My Life with Aristotle, Alexander, 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 Onassis. London: Penguin.  
  • Gage, Nicholas (2000). Greek Fire, The Story of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.  
  1. ^ "Aristotle Socrates Onassis". Britanicca. 
  2. ^ Blyth, Myrna (12 August 2004). "Greek Tragedy, The life of Aristotle Onassis".  
  3. ^ Smith, Helena, The Guardian, Callas takes centre stage again as exhibition recalls Onassis's life, Retrieved on 5 April 2008.
  4. ^ a b New York Times, March 16, 1975, "Headliners, Aristotle Onassis is Dead" by Gary Hoenig
  5. ^ Cafarakis, Christian (1972). Ari: O Fabuloso Onassis. Editora Expressão e Cultura. 
  6. ^ Gerald A. Carroll. Project Seek: Onassis, Kennedy, and the Gemstone thesis. Bridger House, 1994, ISBN 978-0-9640104-0-6, p. 50
  7. ^ Hussein, Waris, Onassis, the richest man in the world (1988), movie for television.
  8. ^ a b c The Diva and the Tycoon", by Sally Bedell Smith, New York Times, November 5, 2000
  9. ^ Evans 1987, p. 113.
  10. ^ Evans 1987, p. 114.
  11. ^ Evans 1987, p. 199.
  12. ^ "Obituary: Prince Rainier III of Monaco.", The Times, London, 7 April 2005, pg. 58.
  13. ^ Nuzum, Thomas. "Monte Carlo Has a Good Feud, but Glamor Is Gone", The Chicago Tribune, Chicago, December 5, 1965, Section 1B, pg. 1|link=
  14. ^ "Mr. Onassis In Monaco Law Battle.", The Times, London, 22 August 1966, pg. 6.
  15. ^ Evans 1987, p. 204.
  16. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  17. ^ Evans 1987, p. 206.
  18. ^ 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 April 2014. 
  19. ^ The Federal Bureau of Investigations (1968). "FBI Vaults File: Aristotle Onassis Part 2 of 11". p. 5. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  20. ^ Dorsey, Kurkpatrick (2013). Whaling and Nations: Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas. p. 151. 
  21. ^ Evans 1987, p. 140.
  22. ^ Destiny Prevails: My life with Aristotle, Alexander, Chrsitina Onassis and her daughter, Athina, Paul J. Ioannidis, Livani Publishing, 2013
  23. ^ Dimitris Liberopoulos, personal biographer of Aristotle Onassis
  24. ^ Evans 1987, p. 231.
  25. ^ Evans 1987, p. 237.
  26. ^ Evans 1987, p. 102.
  27. ^ Evans 1987, p. 154.
  28. ^ Evans 1987, p. 190.
  29. ^ Evans 1987, p. 173.
  30. ^ "Video Biography of Aristotles Onassis". 11 August 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  31. ^ 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."
  32. ^ "Onassis, Aristotle". 2003. Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  33. ^ a b Michael Knipe. "The legacy of Onassis." The Times, London, 18 December 2001, pg. 11
  34. ^ 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
  35. ^ 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

References and sources

See also

Jackie 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.[34] Christina's share has since passed to her only child Athina, at the time making Athina one of the wealthiest women in the world.[35]

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.[32] 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.[33] 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.[33]

Onassis financed the construction of the Olympic Tower in New York.

Death and legacy

During his marriage to Jackie, the couple inhabited six different 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.[31]

Onassis's daughter Christina made 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 murders.[30]

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 with Ted Kennedy and later reviewed by André Meyer, her financial consultant.

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.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

Onassis and opera prima donna Maria Callas embarked 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."[29] Callas and Onassis both divorced their spouses but did not marry each other although their relationship continued for many years.[8]

Maria Callas

Onassis married Athina Livanos, daughter of shipping magnate Stavros G. Livanos and Arietta Zafrikakis, on 28 December 1946. Livanos was aged 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 (30 April 1948 – 23 January 1973), and a daughter Christina (11 December 1950 – 19 November 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.[26] 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 Chateau 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.[27] Onassis and Livanos divorced in June 1960 during Onassis's well publicised affair with Maria Callas.[28]

Onassis's world-famous yacht Christina O together with its tender, a classic Hacker-Craft.

Athina Livanos

Relationships and family

[25] of Economic Coordination, who opposed Onassis's offers in preference to Niarchos.Deputy Minister, 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, Stavros Niarchos, preferred a deal offered by Onassis's rival, Nikolaos Makarezos, a journalist from Athens. Another Greek Colonel, Helen Vlachos 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 [24]

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