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General News

50 Wealthiest Greeks in America (20-11): An Annual TNH Edition of Our Community’s Top Achievers


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20. GEORGE D. BEHRAKIS

Massachusetts
$990M (TNHE)
PHARMACEUTICALS
Northeastern University; Married, 4 children

George Behrakis

Born on New Year’s day in 1934, George D. Behrakis is a retired entrepreneur and philanthropist. The son of Greek immigrants, he was raised in Lowell, MA, and graduated from Northeastern University in 1957 with a degree in pharmaceuticals. After completing his military service, Behrakis began his career in 1959 at McNeil Laboratories (a division of Johnson & Johnson) where he and his team marketed Tylenol (which eventually became a household name). Thus began Behrakis’ career as a recognized leader in the pharmaceutical industry.

In 1968, he founded Dooner Laboratories, which developed and manufactured leading asthma medications. After selling the company nine years later, he purchased Muro Pharmaceuticals, which first worked on skin and eye products and later moved on to asthma and immunology products. With Behrakis at the helm, Muro became highly successful. However, Behrakis sold the company in the mid-90s and began what was known as his second career – this time in philanthropy.

Behrakis and his wife Margo established the Behrakis Foundation, a private family foundation in Massachusetts through which they have funded major initiatives including establishing chairs and funding scholarships at various universities and medical centers (for example: Northeastern University, University of Mississippi, Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology, Tufts University, Johns Hopkins University, Bringham and Women’s Hospital and many others).

Behrakis also established and donated the George D. Behrakis Research Lab, a state of the art laboratory for Lung Function Testing, to the Hellenic Cancer Society in 2008. In conjunction with the lab, SmokeFreeGreece, a campaign series of coordinated actions organized by the Research Lab and the Institute of Public Health (American College of Greece), was created to help reduce (and ideally eradicate) smoking in Greece. Almost a decade ago, Behrakis was shocked to see two women passing out free cigarettes to 11 and 12-year-old girls in front of a school in the wealthy Athenian suburb of Kifisia. Behrakis gave a $1.8 million grant in 2010 to the Harvard University School of Public Health to study smoking in Greece. His goal was to reduce smoking among Greece’s youth by 35%. As per a press release published on February 24, 2021, a comparison of three surveys conducted by the Hellenic Statistical Authority in 8500 households in 2009, 2014 and 2019, shows a decrease of daily smokers by 24.5% and occasional smokers by 38.3%  Since 2010, Behrakis has donated more funds to publish a self-help guide to quitting, produce school programs, and further study at the academy of Athens on the effects of smoking.

With the help of Behrakis, Northeastern University and the Medical Center in Boston opened the Behrakis Health Sciences Center (which houses the Northeastern Schools of Health Professions Nursing and Pharmacy) and created the Center for Drug Discovery in 2003. In his hometown of Lowell, Behrakis embarked on another project focusing on the revitalization of the business community through the renovation of the city’s historical buildings.

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has also benefited from Behrakis. His relationship with the museum dates back to his high school days when his uncle, John Zaroulis, took him to see the galleries. Later, Behrakis would host parties at the Museum. He became a member in 1989, a patron in 1996, and an overseer in 1998. Then, one day in 2001, Behrakis showed up for lunch with MFA Director Malcolm Rogers and handed him a sealed envelope. Inside was a check for $2 million to endow Christine Kondoleon’s position as curator of Greek and Roman Art. He has given at least $25 million to the museum since 2006. The museum is home to the George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing, which houses Greek, Roman, and Egyptian galleries. In December 2021, and with the continued support of George and Margo Behrakis, their namesake Wing for Art of the Ancient World at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston unveiled the transformation of five galleries dedicated to art from ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire. Behrakis is now a ‘guardian’ of the Museum.

In 2011, the 50-plus-year-member of AHEPA was honored with the organization’s Archbishop Iakovos Humanitarian Award in Orange, CT. In October 2014, he was honored by The Hellenic Initiative, a non-profit institution focused on supporting Greece through crisis relief, entrepreneurship, and economic development. Like Metropoulos, featured supra, the Hellenic Post issued stamps dedicated to Behrakis for his contribution to enhancing the country’s international presence in the field of philanthropy. In 2018, he was awarded the Leonidian Award during the 70th annual Convention of the Pan-Laconian Federation of the USA and Canada. He is also a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award. More recently, when Prime Minister Mitsotakis visited the United States in 2022 and addressed a Joint Session of Congress, he hosted a dinner to honor prominent members of the Greek-American community. Behrakis was one of the 12 recipients of the award for his contributions to Greece and beyond.

Behrakis, a former president of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, is a member of the Archdiocesan Council’s Executive Committee and an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is a chairman emeritus of Leadership 100. He is recipient of innumerable awards for his contributions to business, science, the arts, and the Greek Orthodox Church, and sits on the board of trustees of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and is vice chairman emeritus of Northeastern University. He has served on many boards of both public and private companies. He recently joined the Board of Directors of AZTherapies, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company developing therapeutics to extend brain health. In December 2015, Behrakis was given an honorary doctorate from the Medical Faculty of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens for his contributions to science, pharmaceuticals, and medicine, and for his extensive humanitarian endeavors. Extremely moved by the experience, he told TNH in February, 2016 that “you can receive a lot of honors, but when you receive an honor from your own, your family, being first-generation Greek, to receive an honor from Greece is one of the high points of my life.”

Behrakis and his wife Margo have been married for over 60 years and have four children and several grandchildren.

 

19. DEAN SPANOS

California
$1.0 BILLION (Celebrity Net Worth)
SPORTS, REAL ESTATE
University of the Pacific (Business Administration); Married, 2 Children

Dean Spanos

Dean Alexander Spanos is the son of the late Alexander Gus Spanos – a dear friend and supporter of the Greek-American community – and Faye Papafaklis.

Spanos, 72, is now the chairman and owner of the National Football League’s Los Angeles Chargers Franchise, the team his father purchased a majority interest in in 1984. [An aside: Alex Spanos had a humble beginning before he became a billionaire. In 1951, he borrowed $800 from a banker to start a catering business which sold bologna sandwiches to migrant farm workers in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He eventually made most of his wealth with real estate investments and founded A.G. Spanos Companies, which has built mostly apartment complexes in 18 states. He and his wife had 4 children.]

Born in 1950, Spanos grew up in Stockton, CA. He attended Lincoln High School where he earned varsity letters in football and golf. He then went to the University of the Pacific where he graduated in 1972 with a BA in business administration.

Spanos began working for the San Diego Chargers franchise, working alongside his father. He took over the daily operations from his father in 1994, becoming president and CEO, until he passed those responsibilities to his own sons, John and A.G., in 2015. Spanos took over full ownership of the team after his father’s death in 2018.

After a proposed ballot measure for a hotel tax financed stadium plan in downtown San Diego failed in November 2016 with only 43% approval, the Chargers weighed their option to return to the Los Angeles market (they were originally founded as a Los Angeles based team in 1959 before relocating to San Diego in 1961). In January 2017, Spanos exercised the option to relocate the team to Los Angeles. In 2020, construction was completed on the Chargers’ new stadium, SoFi Stadium, which is shared with the Los Angeles Rams. The venue is owned and operated by StadCo LA, LLC., a joint partnership with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and the Los Angeles Chargers. About one year ago, the Chargers broke ground on a new complex in El Segundo. The Chargers’ new home is projected to have a main building that spans nearly 145,000 square feet adjacent to three full-sized football fields where the team will hold practices. The new headquarters is expected to have a roof-top hospitality club, full eSports gaming and content studios, and a 3,100-square foot media center. An additional 3,400-square foot elevated outdoor turf area and two-lane lap pool for player rehabilitation are among the assorted outdoor amenities set for construction. Sonnenblick-Eichner Co. in Beverly Hills announced in March it has arranged $276 million of construction and permanent financing for the facility.

In early 2022, Spanos’ nephews, Dimitri and Lex Economou, filed a lawsuit against him over financial issues stemming from the structure of the family trust that owns 36% of the Chargers, and which have to do with the distribution of profits derived in connection to SoFi Stadium revenues. Later in that same year, one of Spanos’ sisters, Dea, also filed a lawsuit trying to oust her brother as co-trustee of the franchise.

Spanos carries multiple titles. He is a member of the NFL’s Management Council Executive Committee (CEC) where he has played an integral role in negotiating the NFL’s current labor agreement. He also serves as President of the A.G. Spanos Companies, and along with his brother, Michael, oversees all construction operations nationwide.

As per the Chargers website, the Spanos family has a multi-generation commitment to community involvement, and is recognized as one of the NFL’s most philanthropic families and one of California’s most active and caring contributors to local causes. Their financial and emotional support for youth, sports, education and the brave men and women in uniform has been a hallmark of their team ownership and legacy.

Spanos has also been a long-time contributor to many important charities and organizations working to improve the lives of children and families, including: the Make-A-Wish Foundation; American Cancer Society; Armed Services YMCA; Rady Children’s Hospital; Girl Scouts; Huntington’s Disease Society; San Diego Blood Bank; STAR/PAL; Special Olympics of Southern California; San Diego Food Bank; Casa de Amparo; and the Salvation Army. He also led the Chargers to partner with the Susan G. Komen Foundation in San Diego in honor of his wife Susie, who is a breast cancer survivor.

Spanos received the Harold Leventhal Community Service Award and the Ellis Island medal of Honor (16 years after his father received the award). He was inducted into the DeMolay International Alumni Hall of Fame and was presented the Community Champions Award along with his wife from the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum. In 2016, Spanos was ranked number 21 on the USA Today list of 100 most important people in the NFL. He was an honoree at the American Hellenic Council’s (AHC) Annual Awards Gala, which recognizes individuals from the Greek-American community.

Most notably, the Spanos Family Foundation has set the standard for donations to the Greek Orthodox community. Their donation of $10 million to the St. Nicholas Church and Shrine was ‘absolutely stunning’ as was accurately described by other prominent individuals in our community. Spanos is also a member of the board of the Friends of St. Nicholas, a not-for-profit organization with the exclusive responsibility for the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Church and Shrine.

Spanos married his wife Susie in 1977. Even though Spanos moved the Chargers to Los Angeles from San Diego in 2017, he and his wife still maintained their house there until 2020. In June of that same year, the 10,000+ square foot mansion was put on the market for $18 million after the family had lived there for more than 20 years. The couple has two sons.

 

17. GEORGE SAKELLARIS

Massachusetts
$1.2 BILLION (Forbes)
ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT
University of Maine-Orono; Married, 2 children

George Sakellaris

Skyrocketing this year to spot number 18, George Sakellaris has proved to us that he still has many tricks tucked up his sleeve. Sakellaris, now 76, amassed a fortune in the 80s and 90s retrofitting other companies’ buildings for energy efficiency and getting paid out of their resulting savings. He has persevered in the energy industry, working to eliminate regulatory barriers to investing private capital into energy efficiency and renewable initiatives. With businesses looking for more cleantech and renewable solutions, Sakellaris might keep moving up this list in the years to come.

Sakellaris was born in Laconia where he excelled in math and science. According to the Worcester Business Journal, Sakellaris remembers one of his teacher’s telling him he must use his math skills to either become a teacher or an engineer. After graduating from high school in Greece, he traveled to Bangor, ME, as a college exchange student in 1965. He spoke little English when he first enrolled at the University of Maine-Orono, but worked his way through his studies and earned a B.S.E.E. degree, driven by a love of mathematics and the sciences. His parents arrived in the U.S. in 1969 and the family settled in Boston. Sakellaris then started working at local utility New England Electrical Systems (NEES), earning an MBA and MSEE from Northeastern University along the way. Then, Sakellaris explains, “in 1979, while working for NEES, the management wanted to establish a company to promote energy efficiency to avoid the need to build new generation plants. They asked me to lead that initiative and I welcomed the challenge.” The subsidiary he launched was called NEES Energy. Then in 1990, Sakellaris purchased NEES Energy and it became the energy conservation company he re-named NORESCO.

In January 2000, he founded Ameresco which he took public 10 years later. The company has become one of the largest energy solutions companies in North America with over 1,000 employees. Ameresco specializes in providing comprehensive services, energy efficiency, infrastructure upgrades, asset sustainability, renewable energy, and energy information management solutions. The company, whose motto is “Green. Clean. Sustainable,” increases energy efficiency for federal, state and local governments, healthcare and educational institutions, public housing authorities, and commercial and industrial customers. Sakellaris is now Ameresco’s President and CEO and also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors.

In 2021, Forbes media announced that Ameresco would join its America’s Best Mid-size Companies List – the only energy solutions provider included among the annual list’s 100 companies. In recognition of this high honor, Sakellaris said, “Over the past 20 years, Ameresco has maintained a relentless focus on leading the quest to change the world as a trusted sustainability partner. As a clean tech market leader, we are proud to see this industry recognition, and even more excited as we pursue the tremendous opportunity on the horizon.” Ameresco was also named one of the Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in the nation by the National Association for Business Resources for the second straight year in 2021.

This month, Ameresco announced that it was expanding its portfolio of clean energy solutions with the acquisition of ENERQOS Energy Solutions – a renewable energy and energy efficiency company based in Milan, Italy. The purchase and sale agreement will allow Ameresco to expand its portfolio of clean energy projects and solutions throughout Italy. Ameresco already offers clean energy solutions in several European countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Greece. The acquisition of ENERQOS will allow Ameresco to apply its well-established business model and ENERQOS’ regional reach, expertise, and scale to build a high-growth clean energy solutions business and pipeline across Europe. Additionally, the City of Alton, IL and Ameresco have decided to move forward on a 5MW Solar Project, to be developed on a local closed municipal landfill, delivering approximately $1 million in revenue to the City on previously un-utilized land.

Sakellaris is a Distinguished Member Inductee of the Frances Crowe Society at the University of Maine, which gave him the Edward T. Bryand Distinguished Engineer Award in 2007. In May 2012, the University of Maine granted him an Honorary Doctorate for his lifetime of achievements, recognizing his dedication and exemplary leadership in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Some of his other awards include winning an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year 2011 New England award, and Business Leader of the Year 2012 for Large Business by the Worcester Business Journal. In 2020, he was named an Environment + Energy Leader E+E 100 Honoree and the Silver Winner of Best in Biz’s Executive of the Year category. He was also a founding member of the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO) where he served as the first president and advocated for the new industry. He remains an active NAESCO member today.

Sakellaris supports numerous educational institutions, including Northeastern University, Holy Cross/Hellenic College, and the University of Maine. At UMass Lowell, he established an endowment in memory of his mentor, the late Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas. In addition, he was a founding member of Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism. He is an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and a major benefactor at his local church, St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Braintree, MA.

An avid sailor, Sakellaris has won the RORC Caribbean twice – once in 2014 and then again in 2016. He has also won the sailing competition Les Voiles de St. Barth three times consecutively – in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

 

17. Diane von Furstenberg

Connecticut
$1.2 BILLION (Celebrity Net Worth)
FASHION
University of Geneva (Economics)

Diane von Furstenberg

Brand new on our list this year is Diane von Furstenberg. It is not well-known that this fashion designer and icon has Greek roots – but alas, it is true!

DVF was born Diane Simone Michele Halfin in Brussels, Belgium to Jewish parents. Her father migrated to Belgium from what was the Kingdom of Romania and later sought refuge in Switzerland from the Nazis. Her mother was a Greek, born Liliane Nahmias, from Thessaloniki who survived the Holocaust. She was initially captured by the Nazis while she was a member of the Resistance during World War II. Just 18 months before DVF was born, her mother was a prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp. DVF has spoken broadly about her mother’s influence in her life, crediting her with teaching her that ‘fear is not an option.’ She has credited her with instilling positivity within her. “She was extraordinary. She survived the camps at the age of 22, she taught me only to look at positive things no matter what happens. When she talked about the camps, she talked about the camaraderie. I think she was trying to protect me. She weighed only 49lbs when she came out, but I was born 18 months later. I was her victory,” she told The Independent in 2008.

Diane attended Madrid University but later transferred to the University of Geneva where she eventually met her first husband: Prince Egon zu Furstenberg – the elder son of Prince Tassilo zu Furstenberg and his first wife, Clara Agnelii (an heiress to the Fiat fortune). The couple married in 1969, moved to New York and had a son and a daughter. However, they separated amicably only three years after their wedding.

Diane started designing clothes in 1970 – regardless of the fact that she had no financial need to work thanks to her marriage. Nevertheless, she has said she craved independence: “The minute I knew I was about to be Egon’s wife, I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts,” she told The New York Times in 1977.

She first created her now-iconic wrap dress in 1972. In the wrap dress, DVF had hit on a design that was universally flattering, comfortable and easy to wear. By 1975, she was making 15,000 of the dresses a week. Worn by Betty Ford, Gloria Steinem and the suburban housewife, the dress became a cultural phenomenon.

In 2001 Von Furstenberg married media mogul Barry Diller with whom she’d been romantically involved with on and off since the 1970’s. The pair had met and had a relationship more than three decades earlier and, having rekindled their romance much later in life, were married in what Dvf told The Independent was her birthday present to him when he turned 59. A few years earlier, in 1999, the pair had set up the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation – a philanthropic organization which supports non-profits within the human rights, arts, health, environment, education and community building sectors.

In 2005, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designer of America, and, a year later, was made the body’s president – a post she held until 2020. In February 2011, she was honored with the Award of Courage – previously won by figures including Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Taylor. A few years later, in 2015, von Furstenberg was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People following the 2014 release of her memoir The Woman I Wanted To Be, while in 2019 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2020, DvF received the French Legion d’Honneur for her services to fashion, philanthropy and women’s leadership. She continues to helm her eponymous brand while overseeing the DVF Awards and the philanthropic activities of the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation.

 

16. EDWARD ZANDER

California
$1.3 BILLION (Wallmine)
TECHNOLOGY
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Married, 2 children

Edward Zander

Zander earned the nickname ‘Fast Eddie,’ given to him in reference to his Brooklyn roots. According to a Boston Globe article, he frequently demonstrated the “hustle of a street kid spoiling for a good fight”; Zander himself remarked, “I’m from New York, so I’m New York fast.”

Edward Zander is the son of Jewish immigrants from Greece and Poland. His father reportedly dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but instead settled for a job as a furrier in order to support his ill parents. Zander’s mother, blind with glaucoma, emigrated from Greece after her entire family was wiped out by Turkish nationalists in 1922.

Zander’s first career choice was electrical engineering, which he studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. After graduating in 1968, he moved to Boston to fill a position as an engineer at the defense supply firm Raytheon Company. However, Zander quickly learned that he was, as he described to the Boston Globe in a 2000 interview, a “lousy engineer.” After spending five years with Raytheon he accepted a position as a marketer with Data General Corporation, one of the pioneers of microcomputing. Two years later, he had earned his MBA at Boston University, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in Human Letters. His time with Data General proved successful, with the company’s sales increasing from $7 million in 1973, when he joined the company, to $500 million in 1982.

Zander then went on to become vice president of marketing at Apollo Computer and then eventually worked his way to chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems where he stayed until 2002. During his 15 years at Sun, he grew the company to $18 billion in revenue; established the company as number one in the server market; and built it into the pre-eminent supplier of network software infrastructure with Solaris and Java. In addition, Zander was responsible for developing the “dot in dot com” campaign establishing Sun as a leader in Internet computing.

However, what Zander is probably best known for is being chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Motorola. On January 5, 2004, Zander was selected by the Motorola board of directors to succeed Chris Galvin who retired in September 2003, ending a three generation reign of his family at the head of the electronics giant. During Zander’s four-year tenure at the company, he made the RAZR the best-selling cell phone in history and reshaped Motorola’s image worldwide with the popular “Hello Moto” campaign. He sharpened Motorola’s edge in technology innovation; delivered 12 consecutive quarters of revenue growth; streamlined the business to increase operating efficiencies worldwide; significantly improved the balance sheet, and acquired and divested businesses to strengthen the company’s competitive position. During his tenure, the company doubled its revenue and achieved double digit earnings for the first time in over a decade.

Most recently, Zander has been involved with HireLogic – a Dallas-based startup’s ‘conversational analytics platform’ for interviewing and hiring. It is an AI-powered tech software startup aimed at making smarter hiring decisions.

Currently, Zander is a director of Seagate Technology, Netezza Corp., and NetSuite, as well as a member of several advisory boards of civic and philanthropic boards. He is also a member of the board of trustees at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a member of the Dean’s advisory Council of the School of Management at Boston University.

 

14. JAMES S. CHANOS

New York
$1.5 BILLION (Celebrity Net Worth)
INVESTMENTS
Yale University (Economics & Political Science); 4 children

James-Chanos

Known as the “LeBron James of short selling,” “Wall Street’s most notable bear,” “Darth Vader of Wall Street,” and even as “Catastrophe Capitalist, ”James S. Chanos himself, is certainly far from catastrophe. Chanos was raised in Milwaukee, WI, the son of a second generation Greek immigrant who ran a chain of dry cleaners. During the 1960s, Chanos’ father invested on the side and counseled him to learn about the stock market. This was the beginning of Chanos’ long relationship with the finance world.

Like any typical teenage boy, Chanos played basketball in high school – but, unlike most boys, he read everything he could on the market. He then went to Yale, where he studied economics and political science — and started trading options.

Like many short-sellers, Chanos got into the business almost by accident, when, as an analyst at Gilford Securities in 1982, he was tasked with analyzing Baldwin-United and realized that the company’s financials were a sham, which he promptly revealed. The stock tanked, Baldwin-United filed for bankruptcy, and soon clients like hedge fund maestro Michael Steinhardt were asking for more short ideas.

Being right was a rush for the young analyst. Chanos moved up the career ladder to Deutsche Bank. But there were complaints after he was mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article that criticized short-sellers, and he was told his contract would not be renewed. “It was the greatest firing ever,” he says. Chanos’ Kynikos Associates was born that same year – in 1985.

Chanos founded Kynikos Associates (in Greek,“kynikos” means cynic) and built it into the world’s largest exclusive short-selling hedge fund. Today, Chanos serves as president of Kynikos, which has offices in New York and London. The New York office employs 20 people that manage $1.5 billion in assets. He is renowned for predicting – and profiting from – the 2001 Enron Corporation collapse.

Chanos’ speculations catapulted him into billionaire status just a few years ago, where he has remained. Chanos has a long and distinguished history of making shrewd predictions, having identified several financial meltdowns such as Boston Chicken, Conesco, and Tyco International. In 2000, he started investigating Enron. One year later, predicting the company’s financial problems, he became Enron’s short seller. By the time the Enron scandal was public, Kynikos Associates profited greatly. Financial magazine Barron’s mentioned his early prediction of Enron’s fall as “the market call of the decade, if not the past fifty years.”

2020 was also quite a year for the short seller. Chanos took and closed a short position on Luckin Coffee Inc. (China’s answer to Starbucks). The stock dropped 70% in April after the company disclosed in a securities filing that its chief operating officer had fabricated 2019 sales by about $310 million. In an interview on CNBC, Chanos said, “How many times do investors have to be burned in these companies that are just too good to be true? Growing 40% to 50% a year, with all kinds of odd transactions with affiliates.” A few months later, in June of 2020, Chanos took and closed a short position on Wirecard AG. The stock dropped about 96% during the summer after the company’s auditor disclosed that the company was missing about $2.1 billion. Chanos also took and closed a short position on The Hertz Corporation. Chanos covered his short position prior to the Hertz bankruptcy when their shares were down more than 80% for the year. He said that he didn’t believe the company would survive the next recession. Most recently, Chanos has said that he holds a short position against Beyond Meat stating “Beyond Meat has ceased to be a growth company”. The stock is down 54% since its IPO as of July 2022 as investor concerns regarding increasing pressure on Beyond Meat’s margins.

Chanos appears regularly in the American media giving financial advice and predictions. He has long been considered a “media operator” with a strong relationship with journalists that respect and promote his ideas.

Chanos supports many organizations including the Washington ‘Oxi’ Day Foundation, the George and Olga Tsunis Center for Hellenic Studies at Stony Brook University, and Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism.

Chanos serves as a trustee at The Nightingale-Bamford School, The New-York Historical Society and The National WWII Museum. Chanos also teaches a course on the history of financial fraud at Yale University. He is said to take an annual ‘trek’ to the Greek island of Mykonos every year.

 

14. JOHN P. CALAMOS, SR.

Illinois
$1.5 BILLION (TNHE)
GLOBAL ASSET MANAGEMENT
Illinois Institute of Technology (Economics); Married, 2 children

John P. Calamos

Mr. John P. Calamos, Sr. is the Chairman and Global Chief Investment Officer of Calamos Investments, the firm he founded in 1977. Headquartered in the Chicago metropolitan area, the firm also has offices in New York, San Francisco, Milwaukee and the Miami area.

The son of Greek immigrants, Mr. Calamos grew up above his family’s grocery store on Chicago’s west side and attended Chicago public schools. He developed his passion for the stock market as a teenager and began his investment career when his parents entrusted him with the family’s $5,000 nest egg. With this responsibility, Calamos got a taste for the markets but ended up attending the Illinois Institute of Technology on an ROTC scholarship to pursue another passion – architecture. Finding that he had “very little design talent,” Calamos shifted his focus to economics, finance, and philosophy. Interestingly, Calamos has said that economics is more about philosophy than it is about math: “In college I learned that economics is not a math problem. It is economic philosophy: how are we organized as a society? Reading many philosophers from Plato to Socrates and many others, I felt it taught me a great deal about life and gave me a perspective of history going back thousands of years.”

After graduating from college (the first in his family to achieve this great feat), Calamos spent 17 years in service with the United States Air Force – five of which were in active duty flying the B-52 bomber and during the Vietnam War as a Forward Air Controller. His squadron was the first to fly the Cessna O-2, an aircraft in which he recorded over 400 missions in combat. He later spent about a decade in the USAF Reserves flying the A-37 jet fighter and earned the rank of Major.

Throughout his Air Force years, Calamos continued to study books on finance and investing strategies. In 1977, he flexed his confidence and started his own company, taking out a $60,000 second mortgage on his house to help bankroll the endeavor. Calamos ended up taking the company public in 2004 under the NASDAQ ticker CLMS.

In 2016, Calamos stepped down as CEO (and was replaced by another fellow Greek and Chicagoean – John Koudounis) and now serves as the Chairman and Global CIO of the company. Today, the company serves clients worldwide, including major corporations, pension funds, endowments, foundations and individuals. The firm also provides wealth management services to high net worth individuals and families.

A recognized expert in risk-managed investing, Calamos has written two books (Investing in Convertible Securities: Your Complete Guide to the Risks and Rewards and Convertible Securities: the Latest Instruments, Portfolio Strategies, and Valuation Analysis) and contributes to industry publications. He is a frequent speaker at investment conferences around the world and appears regularly on CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Fox Business Channel.

The factors to which Calamos attributes his success include his Greek heritage, a strong work ethic, and entrepreneurial spirit. Calamos also credits his military service as a key factor in his success as it solidified his view of the importance of discipline, risk assessment, and teamwork.

Calamos, along with his wife, Mae, established the John P. Calamos Foundation, which supports a number of scholarship initiatives in the Greek community. He and Mae also endowed Illinois Institute of Technology’s first endowed chair in philosophy. Since 2012, he has served as chairman of the board of directors of Chicago’s National Hellenic Museum, of which he is a major benefactor. He says of the museum: “we have built a national institution to honor our parents and grandparents, to honor our rich Hellenic history.”  Mr. Calamos is also an investment committee member of the Faith Endowment, and a supporting member of the National Hellenic Society, Leadership 100 and The Hellenic Initiative.

In addition to receiving many awards for his accomplishments as an entrepreneur, Mr. Calamos has been honored for his lifetime philanthropic contributions by organizations including the Pan Arcadian Federation of America and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. He was inducted as an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle in 2015. Mr. Calamos was the first Vietnam Veteran to receive the Jaharis Service Award from the Washington Oxi Day Foundation; and in his honor, the Foundation established the Calamos Service Award to specifically recognize a Vietnam veteran every year.

 

12. TED LEONSIS

Maryland
$1.6 BILLION (Forbes)
INTERNET, VENTURE CAPITAL, PROFESSIONAL SPORTS
Georgetown University (American Studies); Married, 2 children

Ted Leonsis – Washington Capitals

Like Yancopoulos, Theodore J. Leonsis also increased his net worth by $200M this year. Leonsis, the grandson of Greek immigrants, was born to a family of modest means (his parents worked as a waiter and a secretary) in Brooklyn, NY and spent his early years there. After skipping the 8th grade, his family moved back to his mother’s hometown of Lowell, MA where Leonsis worked as a lawn mower in order to make some money. According to an interview with N-Magazine, Leonsis said that when his guidance counselor evaluated his skill-set, she concluded that he was destined to work in a grocery store. Leonsis has said that all his father aspired for him to be was a grocery store manager.

Leonsis graduated from Lowell High School in 1973 and attended Georgetown University with the financial help of a businessman named Jim Shannon for whom Leonsis had worked for as a lawn mower. After graduating in 1977 (the first in his family to obtain a university education), he moved back to his parents’ home in Lowell.

In 1980, Leonsis started his own company, which grew quickly, and sold it to International Thompson for $60M one year later. Establishing himself as a pioneer of the Internet and new media, Leonsis participated in launches of the Apple MacIntosh, the IBM PC, and the Wang office automation. He has led four businesses that have grown at record rates: he built Wang WP (who developed the first word processor) from a $200 million to a $1 billion company with the largest female management team in the country. He was founder and CEO of Redgate Communications Corporation, considered the first new media marketing company. He built AOL into the first $1 billion interactive services company and the world’s biggest media company, helping to increase its membership from fewer than 800,000 to more than 8 million in a four-year span (1994-97). He retired from AOL in 2006 and currently serves as vice chairman emeritus. It has been said that few people have roots as deep in the computer industry, or as much knowledge and experience of its history and potential.

Leonsis is probably best known for his involvement in our nation’s capital’s sports world. He owns NBC Sports Washington and is the founder, chairman, principal owner and CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment (MSE) (formed in 2010), which owns and operates the professional sports teams Washington Capitals (National Hockey League), Washington Wizards (National Basketball Association), Washington Mystics (Women’s National Basketball League) and the Capital One Arena in downtown Washington, D.C. (which houses a sportsbook, making it the first pro sports stadium in America with a full-service sports betting operation). The partnership also operates MedStar Capitals Iceplex (the Washington Capitals’ training facility) and the George Mason University EagleBank Arena. MSE also owns Monumental Sports Network, a first-of-its-kind regional sports network for digital, mobile and over-the-top platforms. Additionally, as part of a joint venture with the D.C. Mayor’s Office and Events DC, MSE unveiled a brand-new sports and entertainment facility in Southeast D.C. which opened in the Fall of 2018. The cutting-edge 4,200-seat venue and basketball facility includes a practice facility for the Wizards and serves as the Mystics home court. Laurene Powell Jobs, Apple visionary’s Steve Jobs’ widow, is the second largest shareholder of Monumental Sports, reportedly having acquired 20% of the company in a deal of several hundreds million dollars.

In February 2023, Leonsis landed on the cover of Forbes magazine for creating one of the most valuable sports empires in the world. The magazine did a feature on the top 25 most valuable sports empires and ranked Leonsis number 20. Leonsis could further add to his empire if he is successful in his rumored desire to purchase the MLB’s Washington Nationals. According to sources from The Athletic, Leonsis’ joint bid with fellow billionaire David Rubenstein had them as front runners to purchase the team as recently as this past October. There have also been reports that Leonsis would consider buying the Baltimore Orioles (currently owned by Peter Angelos supra) if that franchise ever comes up for sale.

Leonsis is also a co-founder and partner at Revolution Growth (a $1 billion set of investment funds) and founder/chairman of SnagFilms, a website that allows online audiences to find, watch and share documentary films. He has produced award-winning documentaries including Nanking, which told the story of the 1937 invasion of Nanking, China by the Japanese army. It premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and won a Peabody Award and an Emmy Award in 2009. Leonsis has also authored a number of books including his most recent, “The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Life and Work.”

Leonsis has been named Washington’s Businessman of the Year, Washingtonian of the Year, one of the 20 most influential people in sports, and one of the top 10 entrepreneurs of the year. He sits on the board of directors of several leading companies ranging from American Express to Groupon and serves on the Board of Governors for the NBA and NHL, as well as on the Executive Committee of the NHL. Through the Leonsis Foundation, his sports teams, the MSE Foundation and his family’s personal giving, Leonsis supports hundreds of charities each year. In 2015 he was named chairman of the board of DC-CAP (District of Columbia College Access Program), which is dedicated to encouraging and enabling DC public high school students to enroll in and graduate from college. Earlier this year, Leonsis’ charitable foundation made a $200,000 donation to the University of District Columbia’s sports-related fundraising drive.

After surviving an airplane crash landing in 1983, Leonsis drafted a list of 101 things to do in life and has completed many of the tasks, including owning a sports franchise. Leonsis lives with his wife, Lynn, in Potomac, MD in a 20,000 square foot home that Franklin Roosevelt, and later, Joe Kennedy (the father of President John F. Kennedy), used to rent over the summer. They have a son, Zachary, and a daughter, Elle.

 

12. GEORGE YANCOPOULOS

New York
$1.6 BILLION (Forbes)
PHARMACEUTICALS
Columbia University; 4 children

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals

Raising his net worth by another $200M this year, Dr. George Yancopoulos continues to expand the value and relevance of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Yancopoulos, 62, joined Regeneron Laboratories in 1989 as its Founding Scientist. Born and raised in New York, Yancopoulos hails from Kastoria. His grandfather, George Danis Yancopoulos was born in Kastoria before it was liberated from the Turks.“He escaped to Austria…taught himself German somehow, and remarkably got a degree in electrical engineering,” Yancopoulos says about his grandfather. His grandfather eventually returned to Greece and with his business partners built many of the first electrical power plants there.

Dr. Yancopoulos’ father eventually emigrated to America and pushed his children to get high paying jobs. As Yancopoulos became more interested in the sciences, his father started getting worried that he would become a scientist – a career he feared would not afford his son a good salary. However, when Yancopoulos was 16 years-old, his father gave him an article from The National Herald (he didn’t read the American papers, just the Greek one, Yancopoulos once told us) which was about a certain Dr. P. Roy Vagelos who was leaving Washington University to join Merck as head of Research and Development. Yancopoulos remembers his father saying: “If you are going to become a scientist, at least become like Roy Vagelos,” and added “we Greeks did not have many heroes growing up, but he gave me Roy as my role model.”

Yancopoulos went on to earn his MD and PhD degrees from Columbia University. He has authored more than 350 scientific manuscripts, and was the eleventh-most cited scientist in the world in the 1990s. In 1989, Yancopoulos went to Tarrytown, New York where he started working at Regeneron. Yancopoulos helped Regeneron’s worth skyrocket 2,240% between 2011 and 2016 and now serves as the company’s President and Chief Scientific Officer.

Dr. Yancopoulos’ work during the COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history. As early as February 7, 2020, the U.S. announced that it would work with Regeneron, where Yancopoulos serves as the President and Chief Scientific Officer, to develop an effective treatment for the new coronavirus strain. By March, Dr. Yancopoulos, in an exclusive interview with TNH, said that Regeneron was working on two approaches that could change the course of the pandemic and save a lot of lives. Only three months later, Regeneron had announced that its first U.S. clinical trial of an antibody cocktail for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 was underway. In July, Regeneron announced that it had been awarded a $450 million contract by the U.S. government to manufacture and supply REGN-COV2 (its investigational double antibody cocktail). And on September 29, 2020 Regeneron announced the first data from a descriptive analysis of a seamless Phase 1/2/3 trial of its investigational antibody cocktail REGN-COV2 showing it reduced viral load and the time to alleviate symptoms in non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Yancopoulos takes an unusually hands-on approach to drug discovery, serving as lead inventor and developer of Regeneron’s medicines, including Eylea® and Dupixent®, which have collectively helped millions of people around the world. He and his team have also delivered additional important medicines such as Praluent®, Libtayo®, and the first antibody cocktail treatments for Ebola and COVID-19 in rapid response to emerging public health threats.

His career, featured in Forbes, showed how his scientific ability and humility combined to help him develop drugs for patients with illnesses from asthma to cancer and made the company a force to be reckoned with in its field. “We were a tiny company, but we had the most powerful technology,” he says. “And sometimes that’s what counts,” he told the magazine. “George sees and feels biology in ways very few scientists really can,” said Elias Zerhouni, the President of Global R&D at Sanofi, Regeneron’s partner on most of its drugs. “It is this creative intuition combined with scientific rigor that makes him special in my view.” Yancopoulos defers to his team of scientists and the man who hired him, fellow billionaire Leonard Schleifer, who said his find has “immense talent and genius.”

Yancopoulos works at his science like a scientist, not like a man interested in the money it brings. Nevertheless, he was the first pharmaceutical research chief to become a billionaire. But the money hasn’t gone to his head: he does his kids’ laundry and dresses in the worn Oxfords and khakis of an academic scientist, Forbes wrote. In an interview with Westchester Magazine, Yancopoulos’ daughter Nia described her dad: “He has always just been our weird, silly, always-there-for-us dad.” Yancopoulos is uncomfortable discussing his wealth but hopes that the very thought of it, generated by lifesaving drugs, might serve “as an inspiration to kids who (might) otherwise become hedge fund managers.”

In 2022, Yancopoulos was a central figure at the 31st Annual Leadership 100 Conference, where he was presented with the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Award for Excellence from Archbishop Elpidophoros. In 2004, he was selected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was inducted into the Biotech Hall of Fame in 2014.

 

11. JAMIE DIMON

New York
$1.7 BILLION (Forbes)
FINANCE
Tufts University (Psychology & Economics); Married, 3 children

Jamie Dimon

JP Morgan Chase chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon slips from our top 10 this year – though his personal fortune far understates his influence and relevance as the leader of America’s largest bank in terms of assets and the largest bank in the world by investment banking revenue.

Born and raised in New York City with his older brother Peter and his fraternal twin Ted, Dimon’s family name was originally Papademetriou, but his grandfather, who emigrated to the United States from Smyrna, changed it to make it sound French.

Dimon’s grandfather worked as a busboy but then landed a job at Atlantic Bank of New York (a subsidiary of the National Bank of Greece). After working his way up to vice president, he left the bank and became a broker at Shearson, Hammill & Co. He passed his knowledge of that business onto his son, Theodore (Dimon’s father) – who originally wanted to become a violinist. Dimon’s father and grandfather worked together for 19 years and Jamie joined them during the summers in their New York office. In a recent interview with CNBC, Dimon said he picked up some habits from his grandfather, like reading. “My grandfather was a fascinating guy: He spoke six languages, he walked miles a day, he read a lot,” Dimon said in the interview. As per the interview, each morning, starting at 5am, Dimon reads ‘tons of stuff’ – including The New York Time, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times for an hour-and-a-half to two hours.

Dimon’s grandfather was also “very ethical” and his parents were “moralistic,” which molded his view on ethics and “moral core,” he said. “They strongly believed in right and wrong. Telling the truth. If I didn’t treat someone properly, they would get very mad, including defending people being picked on,” he said. In another interview with CNBC, Dimon said that he and his family were very ‘tight’ – so when both of his parents died within a few hours of each other in 2016, it was very tough on him.

As a boy, Dimon attended the Browning School, a prestigious all-boys prep school on New York’s Upper East Side. He later majored in psychology and economics at Tufts University, and earned his MBA from Harvard University Business School where he met his future wife and mother of his three daughters, Judith Kent. Upon graduating in 1982, Sanford Weill convinced him to turn down offers from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and instead to join him as an assistant at American Express. Through a series of unprecedented mergers and acquisitions that ensued, they formed Citigroup, then the largest financial services conglomerate in the world. Weill was the one who made the deals, but Dimon was the “whiz kid” who made the numbers work. Dimon left Citigroup in November 1998 due to an internal conflict with Weill.

Dimon moved on and became the CEO of Bank One. When JPMorgan Chase purchased Bank One in July 2004, Dimon became president and chief operating officer of the combined company of which he is now chairman and CEO.

At the beginning of 2023, it was announced that Dimon was awarded $34.5M for his 2022 compensation. He had received the same amount the year before along with a $50M retention bonus that he could earn for staying in his seat for approximately four more years.

In March of 2023, Dimon announced that JPMorgan would be expanding in Florida and Texas, opening branches in these states because of an increased influx of Wall Street firms since the pandemic. He said that these states are ‘pro-American, optimistic, and pro-business.’ On a more pessimistic note, he said that the Ukraine War – calling it the most serious geopolitical event since World War II – and China are his biggest economic concerns.

In terms of his dealings with Greece, in 2022, Dimon traveled to Greece to complete a deal that saw JPMorgan acquire Greek company Viva Wallet. The bank said it was planning to use the Greek company to support lending to small businesses across Europe. More recently, JPMorgan announced that they would be opening a crypto lab in Athens involved in encryption and data security with people still interested in cryptocurrency despite the failure of the FTX crypto company.

Dimon is also on the Board of Directors of Harvard Business School and the Board of Trustees of New York University School of Medicine. He is also a Board Member of the Business Roundtable, and a member of The Business Council.

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