Shipping tycoon Yiannis Latsis, one of Greece’s richest men and Eurobank founder, dies at 93

Flamboyant shipping tycoon Yiannis Latsis, one of Greece’s richest men and the founder of Eurobank, died yesterday at 93. Latsis passed away in his northern Athens home, his group told Reuters. He had been unwell since suffering a stroke several years ago. Born in a humble home in the western Peloponnese in 1910, Latsis, one of Greece’s last maverick shipowners, became one of the world’s richest men. He built a financial empire that stretched from shipping to construction, from banking to oil. After attending navy school, Latsis became a sailor and quickly rose through the ranks. He made his fortune in shipping and until a few years ago could be found entertaining British royals like Prince Charles or former US President George Bush aboard his 402-foot (122-meter) yacht, Alexander, always sporting a white captain’s hat. Latsis, whom Bush nicknamed «Captain John,» was known for his blunt manners. He also threw lavish parties, flying international artists such as Elton John in for private concerts. He diversified by setting up a real estate company and in the 1960s expanded into the oil business. His good relations with Saudi Arabia’s royal family landed him a contract to build a refinery in Rabigh, Saudi Arabia. In the late 1970s, Latsis bought out Deposit Bank in Geneva from the Onassis family and in 1989 he created the Private Bank&Trust. Euroinvestment Bank followed a year later. His business activities during the rule of the dictators in Greece between 1967 and 1974 drew criticism that Latsis had used the regime to further his interests. His western Athens refinery prompted protests, especially after an accident at the plant in 1992 killed several workers. A few years ago, Latsis handed over his financial empire, estimated at 6 billion Swiss francs (4 billion euros), to his son Spyros Latsis. Forbes ranked Spyros Latsis and his family 101st on its list of the world’s richest people for this year. Latsis is survived by his wife Erieta and two daughters, Marianna and Margarita. Some of the Latsis group’s charity work Fire-fighting planes donated to the Greek State. – The new town hall in Pyrgos. – The Latsis Scholarship Foundation, which grants 150 scholarships to students from Elis every year. – Patrol cars donated to the Greek police. – Vessels of the group were made available – for an indefinite period – for the accommodation of earthquake victims in Kalamata and Aigion. – Donation of tractors and fishing boats to ethnic Greeks from Albania. – Foundation of the Center for the Rehabilitation of Ethnic Greeks from Albania, which trains and educates 200 children a year. (For this, Yiannis Latsis received the Great Cross of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Golden Cross of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and an Athens Academy award.) – Many other cultural sponsorships. Naturally, there are plenty of other activities, of which we may never learn.