In the Greek-owned shipping industry, which is a key pillar of the economy and has been the world's leading power since ancient times until today, the richest "figure" in the industry, as Bloomberg reports, is Maria Angelicoussis.
The 40-year-old, which makes her one of the youngest billionaires in the world, is head of the Angelicoussis Shipping Group, which is one of the most powerful shipping groups in the world. She inherited the company from her father John, who died in 2021 at the age of 72.
A surge in freight rates triggered by a confluence of pandemic factors sent ship valuations soaring over the past two years.
That helped boost Angelicoussis’s net worth to about $5.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making her the second-wealthiest person in Greece after banking heiress Vicky Safra, and among the richest women in the world.
According to the outlet, Angelicoussis declined to comment through a representative.
She’s among a small but growing contingent of powerful women in shipping, an industry deeply ingrained in Greek culture that’s been dominated by men and steeped in machismo since its earliest days.
Colourful, brash magnates like Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos were the prototype of the nation’s billionaires. Women comprise only about a third of the workforce at ship-owning companies and just of 2% of seafaring crews.
“Shipping was always considered kind of a man’s industry, but if you look around today it’s striking how many women are in very prominent positions or poised to be prominent,” said Nigel Lowry, Athens correspondent for maritime intelligence firm Lloyd’s List.
Women now helm Greece’s two biggest shipowners: Angelicoussis, a mother of one, at her eponymous company and Angeliki Frangou, chief executive officer of Navios Maritime Holdings.
The Union of Greek Shipowners last year elected a woman as leader, Melina Travlos, for the first time in its century-long history.
Succession has played a part in that diversification. Requiring long-term horizons and hefty capital commitments, shipping lends itself to multigenerational family ownership. Increasingly, the mantle of leadership is passing to daughters.
Cambridge-educated, she was working as a junior doctor for the National Health Service in the UK in 2008 when her father lured her back to Greece to apprentice with him.
The industry, already suffering from a glut of vessels, was going through a painful contraction as global trade plummeted following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Greece’s sovereign debt crisis exacerbated the challenges.
Angelicoussis’s father was “the best teacher,” Lowry said. Renowned for his market instincts and loyalty to certain banks and shipyards, he helped the company persist through the recession and grow its fleet of dry bulk ships, tankers and vessels that carry liquified natural gas.
The expansion has helped double the family’s fortune over the past seven years. Including ships on order, Angelicoussis’s fleet now includes 134 vessels valued at about $14 billion, according to maritime data consultant VesselsValue.
When the elder Angelicoussis had a heart attack in early 2021, Maria was elevated to CEO. His death three weeks later came as a shock.
“It was a very challenging time for me,” she said at a commodities summit last year. “I had to navigate personally mourning my father, who I was very close to,” as well as “big changes for the company.”
Her first big test came quickly. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended an industry already roiled by Covid restrictions. When the war broke out, Angelicoussis had ships in Ukraine, and the market-wide fallout was immediate.
Russian vessels were banned from most Western ports, oil markets were in disarray and ships and crew faced a new level of physical threats. She made it clear that the company wouldn’t be handling any Russian cargo, citing “a huge ethical component” that went into the decision.
Her decisiveness earned her respect from others in the industry, some of whom had been skeptical of her ability to fill her father’s shoes.
“She handled that extremely firmly,” said Lloyd's List's Lowry. “She seems to be on a very even keel.”
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