Aristotle Onassis: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aristotle Sokratis Onassis
Born 15 January 1906(1906-01-15)
Smyrna, Ottoman Empire
Died 15 March 1975 (aged 69)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Occupation Shipping
Spouse(s) Athina Livanos (m. 1946–1960) «start: (1946)–end+1: (1961)»"Marriage: Athina Livanos to Aristotle Onassis" Location: (linkback:
Jacqueline Kennedy (m. 1968–1975) «start: (1968)–end+1: (1976)»"Marriage: Jacqueline Kennedy to Aristotle Onassis" Location: (linkback:
Children Alexander
Relatives Socrates (father)
Penelope (mother)
Artemis Garofalidi (sister)
Kalliroi (half-sister)
Merope (half-sister)

Aristotle Sokratis Onassis (Greek: Αριστοτέλης Ωνάσης, Aristotelis Onasis; 15 January 1906 – 15 March 1975), commonly called Ari or Aristo Onassis, was a very prominent Greek shipping magnate of the 20th century.[1][2] Some sources claim he was born in 1900 but that he later changed his date of birth so as to avoid deportation from Turkey.[3]


Early life

Onassis was born in Karatass, a suburb of Smyrna, Greek Asia Minor (now İzmir, Turkey) to Socrates and Penelope Onassis (maiden name Penelope Dologu). At the time of his birth, Smyrna had a very significant and prosperous Greek population. Aristotle had one full-sister, Artemis, and two half-sisters, Kalliroi and Merope, who were products of his father's second marriage (after Penelope's death) in 1912. According to the Greek Fire book, released in 2000, Ari's father Socrates Onassis came from a village called Moutalasski, near Cappadocia of Asia Minor, which is the present-day Nevsehir province, in central Turkey. Historically this was an area of king Midas kingdom Phrygia.[4]

Aristotle's father had a fleet of 10 ships with 40 sailors. This enterprise was a financial success enabling him to send Onassis and his sisters to prestigious schools. At the age of 16, Aristotle spoke four languages: Spanish, Turkish, English and Greek.[5]

After being briefly occupied by Greece (1919–1922) in the aftermath of the allied victory in World War I, Smyrna was re-captured by Turkey; the Onassis family substantial holdings were lost, causing them to become refugees fleeing to Greece after the Great Fire of Smyrna. During this period Aristotle lost three uncles and one aunt with her husband Chrysostomos Konialidis and their daughter, who were burned to death when the Turks set fire to a church in Thyatira where 500 Christians were seeking shelter at the Great Fire of Smyrna.

In 1923, Aristotle Onassis left his home country for Buenos Aires, Argentina[6] reportedly, carrying just $60 in his pocket and got his first job with the British United River Plate Telephone Company.



After hearing from an Argentine film distributor and a senior executive at Paramount in New York reporting the film star Rudolph Valentino saying that everything from the Orient was in evidence at that moment, Onassis had the idea of importing tobacco from Turkey with help from his father Socrates. The tobacco was softer than the Cuban variety, and he was sure it would appeal to women more. After the failure of a contract with Juan Gaona, the director of a huge Argentine company, he turned to making his own cigarettes. After some time managing this business and his job in British United River, he made a considerable amount of money.

His power and influence increased rapidly; he frequently attended important social events, and in 1925 he received both Argentine and Greek citizenship.

According to Peter Evans (his official biographer) and Christian Cafarakis (a former employee)[7] a considerable part of the tobacco was smuggled,[8] which would explain the speed with which he made his first million dollars. In 1928, Onassis traded with Greece US$2,800,000 just four years after his arrival in Argentina. This was due to other illegitimate activities he undertook, like sabotaging his competitor and using the same name of a famous cigarette company: Bis. This last was profitable but ended once the real Bis company sued him.[9]

In 1929 the Greek government announced a 1000% increase in tax of imported products from countries with no trade agreement with their country; this could have ruined Onassis' South American business, as Argentina had little commercial relationships with Greece. With the help of his confidante, Costa Gratsos, a former student of the London School of Economics and descendant of a rich family - the Dracoulis - he wrote a letter to the prime minister of Greece Eleutherios Venizelos. The text was a warning about the damage that the increase in tax could cause to the Greek merchant navy, once 80% of it was used in transport between Europe and Argentina.[10]

The letter made a good impression on the prime minister and he sent Onassis to speak with the foreign minister Andreas Michalakopoulos.[10] The meeting, however, did not go well. Michalakopoulos, who purportedly brushed his nails throughout the meeting, simply rejoindered:

Mr. Onassis, I'm listening to what you say, but this type of thing needs time. I will strongly consider what you have said. You can count on that.[10]

During the next few weeks, Onassis and Michalakopoulos met several times more, and Onassis's hospitality, which usually included generous bribes, finally won Michalakopoulos's support. Onassis once said never to trust a person who did not accept a bribe.[10]

Due to this new friendship Onassis returned to Argentina with a new passport and the encouragement to move his business forward. The Greek government promised not to apply heavy taxes to Argentine trades.[10]

In 1931 again with Michalakopoulos's help, Onassis' connections in Argentina were recognized and he was granted, along with the tax exemptions for the freight ships, the title of Vice Consul.[10]

This title greatly increased the status of Onassis as well as his business. Evans also claims that at the same time Onassis got access to large amounts of money that he exchanged in the black market, in spite of Gratsos' disapproval.[10]


Statue of Onassis at Nydri, Lefkada.

In 1954, the FBI investigated Onassis for fraud against the U.S. government.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] He founded Olympic Airways (today Olympic Air), the Greek national carrier, in 1957.

To finance his ships he used a method that he, in his own words, described as utilizing the formula OPM (other people's money).[citation needed] And, much in the same way, he closed contracts to transport ore in ships he did not yet have, and closed several contracts to transport oil via tankers that had not yet been built.[citation needed]

Onassis made large profits when the big petroleum 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 fleet which operated under US flags and thus at high cost.

Onassis' 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. He could recoup the cost of a tanker with a simple six-month contract.[citation needed] The rest of the service life of the tanker, usually 20 years, yielded high profits.[citation needed]

Onassis fortune consisted of a fleet of freighters and tankers that exceeded the seventy vessels. Stocks that accounted for one-third of the capital of Onassis, in oil companies in the USA, the Middle East, and Venezuela. Additional shares that secured his control of ninety-five multinational businesses on the five continents. Gold processing plants in Argentina and Uruguay. A great share in an airline in Latin America and $4 million dollars worth of investments in Brazil. An electronics company in Japan. Also companies like Olympic Maritime and Olympic Tourist; chemical company in Persia; apartments in Paris, London, Monte Carlo, Athens, Acapulco, a castle in South France; Olympic Tower, a fifty-two story high-rise in Manhattan, another building in Sutton Place; Olympic Airways and Air Navigation; islands Scorpios and Sparta; the yacht "Christina"; and finally, deposit accounts and accounts in treasuries in two hundred and seventeen banks in the whole World.[11]


Between 1950 and 1956 Onassis had much success whale fishing off the Peruvian coast. His first expedition made a net profit of US$4.5 million. That business ended when the Norwegian Whales Gazette made serious accusations based on sailor testimonials, like this one from Bruno Schalaghecke that worked on 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"[10]

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 a sum of US $8.5 million

The Greek Colonel affair

According to the Evans biography, four days after his marriage with Jacqueline, Onassis was in close discussions with Colonel George Papadopoulos. In the same biography, it is claimed that Papadopoulos was on Onassis' extensive bribe list.[12]

Onassis and Papadopoulos were planning what they referred to as the "greatest business" in Greece. This project involved building an oil refinery, shipyards, power plants, and several aluminium facilities. The project was officially named the Omega Project. The Omega Project was heavily criticized by people like Helen Vlachos, a journalist from Athens who, at the time, declared that Greece was being sold as a "genuine bargain".[12]

The Omega Project negotiations with the Papadopoulos government lasted for months and ended with Onassis losing part of the project to his competitor Stavros Niarchos.[12] The failure was due partly to opposition from influential people within the military junta, such as Ioannis-Orlandos Rodinos, Deputy Minister of the National Economy, who severely opposed Onassis' offers in preference to Niarchos' ones.[12]

Personal life


Relationships and family

Athina Livanos

Onassis married Athina Livanos, daughter of shipping magnate Stavros Livanos and Arietta Zafrikakis, on December 28, 1946; their son, Alexander (April 30, 1948 – January 23, 1973), and daughter Christina (December 11, 1950 – November 19, 1988), were both born in New York City.[13]

To Onassis this marriage 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 due to his business tactics, such as sailing with a Panamanian flag.[14]

In an exchange with Costa Gratsos, during the wedding, Onassis expressed his desire to prevail over his competitors.[14]

After their divorce, Athina married John Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford. She later married Stavros Niarchos, her sister's widower and Onassis's arch shipping rival.

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

Maria Callas

Despite the fact they were both married, Onassis and opera diva Maria Callas embarked on a notorious affair.[15] They met each other in 1957 during a party in Venice promoted by Elsa Maxwell. After this first encounter, Ari said to Spyros Skouras: "There [was] just a natural curiosity; after all, we were the most famous Greeks alive in the world".[9]

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

Onassis ended his relationship with Callas to marry Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, on October 20, 1968. It was said that Kennedy insisted on marriage rather than an affair so as to avoid upsetting her children.

According to Peter Evans, Onassis offered Mrs. Kennedy US$3 million for herself and $1m for each son in return for marriage. After Onassis's death she would receive 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's daughter Christina made clear that she did not like Jacqueline Kennedy, and after Alexander's death, she convinced Onassis that Jacqueline had some kind of curse due to John and Robert Kennedy's murders. The relations between Aristotle and Jacqueline that were already not good came to an end.[16]

Death and legacy

Onassis died at age 69, on March 15, 1975 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, of bronchial pneumonia, a complication of the myasthenia gravis that he had been suffering from during the last years of his life.[17] According to his will, his daughter Christina was to inherit 55% of the Onassis fortune while the other 45% were used as funds for the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation set up to honor his son Alexander Onassis.[18] This 45% was the share that his son Alexander would have inherited, had he not died in 1973. Jackie Kennedy also received her share of the estate settling for a reported $10,000,000 ($26 million according to other sources) which was negotiated by her brother-in-law Ted Kennedy (this amount would later 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, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world.

See also


  1. ^ Blyth, Myrna (12 August 2004). "Greek Tragedy, The life of Aristotle Onassis". National Review Online. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2008. 
  2. ^ Smith, Helena, The Guardian, Callas takes centre stage again as exhibition recalls Onassis's life, Retrieved on 5 April 2008.
  3. ^ "The Life of Aristotle Onassis". Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Cafarakis, Christian (1972). Ari: O Fabuloso Onassis. Editora Expressão e Cultura. 
  6. ^ "Richest People in History Aristotle Onassis". 15 March 1975. Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  7. ^ El fabuloso Onassis - Pesquisa de Livros do Google. Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  8. ^ "Aristotle Onassis biography — The man and legend". Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  9. ^ a b Evans, Peter (1986). Ari: The Life and Times of Aristotle Onassis. Summit Books. ISBN 0671465082. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Evans, Peter (1986). Ari: The Life and Times of Aristotle Onassis. Summit Books. ISBN 0671465082. 
  11. ^ Dimitris Liberopoulos, personal biographer of Aristotle Onassis
  12. ^ a b c d Evans, Peter (1986). Ari: The Life and Times of Aristotle Onassis. Summit Books. ISBN 0671465082. 
  13. ^ The founder
  14. ^ a b Evans, Peter (1986). Ari: The Life and Times of Aristotle Onassis. Summit Books. ISBN 0671465082. 
  15. ^ "MARIA CALLAS Biography". Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  16. ^ "Video Biography of Aristotles Onassis". 11 August 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  17. ^ "Onassis, Aristotle". Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  18. ^ "Aristotelis (Aristotle) Onassis (1906–1975)". Retrieved 26 April 2009. 


  • "Onassis: Pioneer in Shipping", by George M. Foustanos, 2006.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Statue of Onassis at Nydri, Lefkada.

Aristotle Sokrates Onassis (15 January 190615 March 1975) was a Greek shipping magnate.


  • Five tankers and I just had to put hands in my pockets when I wanted to scratch my balls.
    • Quoted in Peter Evans, Ari: Life and Times of Aristotle Socrates Onassis, (1978), p. 118
    • About his five tankers made in Sparrow Point, Baltimore, MD in 1948
  • Sometimes, to please the ladies, we drop down our weapons pretending we are civilized.
    • Quoted in Peter Evans, Ari: Life and Times of Aristotle Socrates Onassis, (1978),
    • During his wedding (Terrace Room - Plaza) with Tina Livanos about [Stavros Niarchos]
  • They want new blood, not new money. Rainier have to stop caring about matain his dick wet all the time and consider himself like a princess that has to liven up the party.
    • Quoted in Peter Evans, Ari: Life and Times of Aristotle Socrates Onassis, (1978), p.163
    • About Rainier_III in 1955 during the Monaco financial crash
  • The boy had everything except lucky.
    • Quoted in Peter Evans, Ari: Life and Times of Aristotle Socrates Onassis, (1978),
    • About Bob Kenney death
  • They say i don't have class. Fortunetly, class people always have disposal to forgive this defect to the very rich ones
    • Quoted in Peter Evans, Ari: Life and Times of Aristotle Socrates Onassis, (1978),
  • Millions not always helps achive what we wants from life
    • Quoted in Peter Evans, Ari: Life and Times of Aristotle Socrates Onassis, (1978),
  • Cold and sharp in the edges, full of fire and warm under the surface
    • Quoted in Peter Evans, Ari: Life and Times of Aristotle Socrates Onassis, (1978), p. 299
    • Comparing Jackie Kennedy Onassis to a diamond

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Aristotle Socrates Onassis (January 15, 1906 - March 15, 1975) was a prominent Greek shipping magnate and founder of Olympic Airways.

Onassis was born in Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey, in a prosperous family. He received a good education and became fluent in several languages. In 1922, when Turkey took possession of Smyrna, the Onassis family lost most of their fortune and had to flee to Greece. The following year, Onassis left for Argentina where he quickly established himself as a prominent businessman.

He later began to invest in shipping and eventually acquired a large fleet of freighters which made him one of the richest man in the world. In 1957, he founded Olympic Airways. He converted one of his ship into a luxury yacht called Christina, which he used to entertain famous people (artists, politicians, royalty, etc.).

He married Athina Livanos (1926-1974) in 1946, with whom he had two children; Alexander (1948-1973) and Christina (1950-1988). In the late 1950s, he met diva Maria Callas and began a liaison with her that led to his divorce. In 1968, he startled the world by marrying Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of slain President John F. Kennedy.

He died in Paris, France, from complications of myasthenia gravis.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address