Stavros Spyros Niarchos, the Greek shipping magnate who spent much of his life battling his archrival Aristotle Onassis for supremacy on the high seas was born in Athens, on July 3, 1909.
Stavros was born in Greece’s capital city to a wealthy family being the son of Spyros Niarchos and his wife, Eugenie Koumantaros, a rich heiress.
His great, great grandfather, Philippos Niarchos, a Greek shipping agent in Valetta, had married a daughter from a noble family in Malta, whose younger offspring had moved to Greece to establish a Maltese merchant business..
Niarchos was a naval officer in WWII, during which time, part of the trade fleet he had developed with his uncle was destroyed.
He used about two million dollars in insurance settlement to build a new fleet.
His most famous asset was the yacht Atlantis, currently known as Issham Al Baher after having been gifted to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
He then founded Niarchos Ltd, an international shipping company that at one time operated more than 80 tankers worldwide.
Niarchos and Aristotle Onassis were great shipping rivals.
In 1952 high capacity oil supertankers were built for the competing Niarchos and Onassis fleets who were, at the time, both claiming to own the largest tanker in the world.
So although a very private man, there was little mystery in the way Stavros S. Niarchos built a personal fortune.
Niarchos, whose name means “master of ships,” was quite simply a master at seizing the moment and turning it to his advantage, especially if it involved the complex world of shipping. What others may have perceived as disaster, he recognised as opportunity.
In 1956 the Suez Canal Crisis considerably increased the demand for the type of large tonnage ships that Niarchos owned. Business flourished and he became a billionaire.
The secret of his shipping success was very simple: buy cheap and buy big.
Niarchos was married 5 times and had two daughters and three sons.
Niarchos died on April 16, 1996, in Zurich aged 87. At the time of his death, his fortune was estimated to be worth in excess of $22 billion.
When Niarchos died, he left half his fortune to a charitable trust to be established in his name and the other half to his three sons and his daughter Maria by his marriage to Greek shipping heiress Eugenia Livanos, as well as to a nephew, and a great-nephew.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (ISN) is one of the largest private charities in the world today and donates to non-profit organisations in the fields of art and culture, education, health and sports, and social welfare.
The ISN works to strengthens organisations and programs worldwide, which are expected to bring tangible, long-term and positive results to society at large and demonstrate effective governance and good management.
The Foundation also supports programs that contribute to the cooperation of public and private sector bodies, as effective means of supporting the common good.
Money from the Stavro Niarchos charitable trust has been given to many charities around Greece, including millions of dollars that went towards The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, an amazing complex in the bay of Faliro in Athens, featuring new facilities for the National Library of Greece, the Stavros Niarchos Hall for the Greek National Opera, as well as the 210,000 m² Stavros Niarchos Park.
Another recent project undertaken by the Foundation is the $220 million renovation of what used to be the New York Public Library’s Mid-Manhattan branch, now called the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library.