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General News

50 Wealthiest Greeks in America (30-21): An Annual TNH Edition of Our Community’s Top Achievers


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30. JOHN GEORGES

Louisiana
$350 MILLION (Celebrity Net Worth)
FOOD SERVICES, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, PHILANTHROPY, MEDIA
Tulane University (Management, Accounting); Married, 3 children

John Georges

An entrepreneur in multiple industries, an avowed philanthropist, and a strong supporter of Hellenic causes, John Georges, now 62, was born in New Orleans to Anita and Dennis George. Originally from Greece, John’s father immigrated to the U.S. after serving in the Greek Resistance and the Royal Greek Air Force during World War II.

Georges is founder and CEO of Georges Enterprises, a company based in Elmwood, LA, specializing in acquiring and growing businesses. It invests in food vending, grocery distribution, video/arcade entertainment, restaurants, and media outlets. His Louisiana-based conglomerate includes Imperial Trading Co., a national food distribution for convenience stores headquartered in New Orleans and regional offices in twelve states and several other businesses. Georges Enterprises began as Imperial Trading in 1916, a wholesale grocery distribution company founded by Georges’ maternal grandfather. Georges started out in the family business at a young age, sweeping warehouse floors when he was 11 and making deliveries by the time he was 15. After graduating from Tulane University, he went back to the family business and under his leadership, the company has grown to be a $2.5B company.

Georges is very involved with both Louisiana public life and the community of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Then the president of the New Orleans Greek Orthodox Community, he hosted Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew when he visited New Orleans in October 2009. He was also instrumental in rebuilding the Greek community in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – raising over $4 million in just three months. Everything was “a wasteland,” he told TNH in 2015, “and we rebuilt everything in 90 days – it was a miracle.” More recently, Georges became a member of the 13-person 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.

In April 2013, Georges Enterprises acquired The Advocate – a Baton Rouge daily newspaper with a New Orleans edition and websites covering nearby towns Ascension and Acadiana – which is the largest newspaper in Louisiana that won a 2019 Pulitzer Prize for what the Pulitzer committee called “a damning portrayal of the state’s discriminatory conviction system, including a Jim Crow-era law, that enabled Louisiana courts to send defendants to jail without jury consensus on the accused’s guilt.” In May 2019, Georges’ New Orleans Advocate purchased The Times-Picayune and the accompanying nola.com website from Advance Local, merging the two papers and websites.

A notable campaign financier, Georges unsuccessfully ran as an independent for Louisiana Governor in 2007, and as a Democrat for New Orleans Mayor in 2010.

A firm believer in education and entrepreneurship, Georges founded ‘Lemonade Day’ – a community event that gives children an opportunity to learn the inner workings of running a business – in Louisiana. The event has helped more than 5,000 children become entrepreneurs.

Georges is also on the board of The Hellenic Initiative, and he and his wife Dathel are involved in numerous other philanthropic endeavors. Among other positions, Georges is a member of the Order of St. Andrew, Leadership 100, and AHEPA, as well as Trustee for the National World War II Museum, Member of the Board of St. Augustine High School, Past President of the Young Presidents Organization of Louisiana, past member of the Tulane University President’s Council, the University of New Orleans Foundation, the LSU Medical Foundation Board, Jefferson and New Orleans Business Councils, New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, World Trade Center and the Chamber of Commerce.

Georges and his wife have three children: Zana, Liza, and John Jr.

 

29. MARTHA STEWART

New York
$400 MILLION (Celebrity Net Worth)
ENTERTAINMENT
Barnard College (Architectural History); 1 child

Martha Stewart

Three very surprising facts about Martha Stewart that many likely did not know: she is now 81 years old, she was once worth more than a billion dollars – but now that number has been more than halved, and she has Greek roots from the island of Kos!

Joining our list this year, Stewart was the second of six children and grew up in a working-class Polish family in New Jersey. However, at a fundraising event at the Olympic Towers in 2006 she surprised the audience by disclosing that she is of Greek descent (as reported in the National Herald by Liana Sideri). Stewart’s maiden name is Kostyras and her father’s family traces its roots back to the island of Kos in the Dodecanese. She said she had been to Kos and expressed her fondness of the island: “On my father’s side, a long time ago, I found out that I’m Greek, from the beautiful island of Kos. The family ultimately ended up in Poland. I have been to the island of Kos, and I saw the legendary sycamore tree under which Hippocrates is said to have authored his famous Hippocratic oath.”

She paid for her college tuition by taking modeling jobs in New York City and eventually married law student Andrew Stewart in 1961 (divorced 1990). The couple had one daughter, Alexis, who was born in 1965.

After graduating, Stewart worked as a stockbroker at a small Wall Street firm until she and her family moved to Connecticut. She launched her first catering business in 1976 and five years later published her first book, Entertaining. Following continued success with more books, Time Publishing Ventures teamed up with Stewart in 1990 to publish a monthly magazine: Martha Stewart Living – which she eventually bought with the proceeds from her household furnishings merchandising arrangement with Kmart (Martha Steward Everyday). She then began a syndicated television show with the same name which aired for over a decade.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1999 with Stewart as the chairman and CEO making her a billionaire (briefly) – the company struggled to turn a profit during the following decade. Stewart was convicted of insider trading and spent 5 months in prison followed by 5 months of home detention. Nevertheless, she persevered and returned to daytime television with her show Martha (2005-12). She is still a television personality with her shows Martha Knows Best and Martha Gets Down and Dirty.

Following her highly publicized friendship with Snoop Dog, Martha has tipped her toe in the industry of cannabis – joining a Canadian marijuana company as an advisor. Most recently, Steward was listed on Forbes’ 50 over 50 lifestyle list in 2022.

 

28. P. ROY VAGELOS

New Jersey
$444 MILLION (TNHE)
PHARMACEUTICALS, HEALTHCARE
University of Pennsylvania (Chemistry); Married, 4 children

P. Roy Vagelos

Dr. Pindaros Roy Vagelos started 2023 with a huge bang. Earlier this month, he and his wife, Diana, announced a $175 million gift to Columbia University to create the Vagelos Institute for Biomedical Research Education. The gift will be home to PhD students pursuing the “most creative, potentially disruptive ideas in biomedical science and will spur training of more physician-scientists able to translate the latest paradigm-shifting discoveries into revolutionary new methods in patient care.” As per Columbia University’s website, Dr. Vagelos said: “We all know that continued scientific progress is the foundation for solving our most pressing medical problems. Diana and I each vividly recall the difference that financial support made in creating a sense of freedom and instilling the confidence to pursue our passions early in our lives. We want to give others this same freedom by removing the obstacles facing researchers and scientists in training. The larger the number of talented researchers who are able to explore areas of discovery that capture their imaginations, the greater the impact they will have in changing medicine and improving health. It is our honor to give back.”

Now 93 years old, Dr. Vagelos was born in Rahway, NJ in 1929 – just before the infamous stock market crash. In 1943, about 20 years after Vagelos’ parents had emigrated to the U.S. from Asia Minor, Herodotus and Marianthi bought a restaurant (then known as Estelle’s Luncheonette), where Vagelos and his two sisters worked during their adolescence. According to the Columbia University Magazine, the family ate dinner there six nights a week. Vagelos, described as a “violin-playing, sports-loving math whiz at Rahway High,” worked behind the counter every day after school as a soda jerk, a dishwasher, and as a potato peeler. It was at this restaurant that Vagelos was first introduced to Merck. With the company’s headquarters just a few blocks away, scientists would come have lunch at Estelle’s and speak with the Vagelos family members.

Vagelos earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in 1950 from the University of Pennsylvania. He then went on to earn a medical degree from Columbia University in 1954. After an internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (1954-56), he joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. At NIH from 1956 to 1966, he served in the National Heart Institute, holding positions in cellular physiology and biochemistry – first as senior surgeon, then as head of Comparative Biochemistry.

In 1966, Vagelos joined the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine as chairman of its Biological Chemistry Department where he founded the division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences. Since then, he has had a long and distinguished career in healthcare, and particularly in pharmaceuticals.

It was in 1975 that Dr. Vagelos left academia to join Merck, which he led with great distinction both as a scientist and as a visionary corporate leader, first as Senior Vice President for Research, and then starting in 1984 as CEO. Merck was very respected under his leadership, having been voted “America’s Most Admired Corporation” in the annual Fortune magazine poll for seven consecutive years. During Vagelos’ tenure there, Merck developed the cholesterol-lowering statins, MEVACOR and ZOCOR. Vagelos is sometimes called the father of ‘pharmacophilanthropy’ for his decision that Merck contribute the drug MECTIZAN for free to treat millions of Africans with river blindness.

After retiring from Merck in 1995 (due to the company’s rule that CEOs retire at age 65), Vagelos was approached by biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Since then, he has served as chairman of the company, which employs more than 9,000 people and has been outperforming its market and analysts’ expectations on the success of its Covid and other treatments. It was this later career move that catapulted Vagelos to billionaire status.

Vagelos served as chairman of the University of Pennsylvania board of trustees from 1994 to 1999. He has funded three of the university’s most elite undergraduate programs: the Vagelos Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences, the Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management, and the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research. His charity work at the University of Pennsylvania includes sponsoring scholarship/study programs as well as the Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories. Between 2005 and 2013, the couple contributed $31.6 million to Penn for studies in energy research and the life sciences. In April of 2019, the couple added to that sum by contributing an additional $50 million in order to build a center to connect scientists and engineers who are focused on energy-related solutions. (In an interview with Kathimerini in 2020, Vagelos said that climate change is a much greater problem than the pandemic.) It was the largest gift in the history of the School of Arts and Sciences. In 2020, the couple donated an additional $20 million to be used towards the new $173 million 110,000 square foot state-of-the-art laboratory space.

Vagelos is also the founding chairman of Columbia University Medical Center’s board of advisors, and chaired the center’s capital campaign, which passed its target of $1 billion. In 2010 the Vagelos couple contributed the lead gift to Columbia University Medical Center for a new medical and graduate education building. Seven years later, it was announced that Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons would be renamed the Columbia University Roy and Diana Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in recognition of a $250 million gift given by Vagelos to the college. A substantial part of the donation ($150 million) would be used to endow a fund that will help eliminate student loans for medical students who qualify for financial aid. It was the first medical school in the country to adopt a financial aid policy that guarantees debt-free graduation for its students. In late 2021, Vagelos and his wife, Diana, contributed an additional $15M gift to the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

The author of several books, including an autobiography (“Medicine, Science and Merck”), as well as more than 100 scientific papers, Vagelos was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences in 1972 and to the American Philosophical Society in 1993. He also serves as co-chairman of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center; is a trustee of The Danforth Foundation, Inc.; and a director of PepsiCo, Inc., the Prudential Insurance Company of America, The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, the Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.; Vagelos has received honorary degrees from 14 institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Washington Universities. He also currently serves on the boards of the National Math and Science Initiative and The Nature Conservancy. In an interview with Kathimerini, Vagelos joked that he never really retired and likely works just as much now as when he was at Merck.

Vagelos has been married to his wife, Diana (née Touliatos) for almost 70(!) years – having met on Columbia’s campus in 1951 when Vagelos was in medical school and Diana was a student at Barnard. They visit Lesvos and Kefalonia regularly since they have family on both islands. The couple lives in New Jersey and have four children and several grandchildren.

 

26. MARCUS A. LEMONIS

Illinois
$500 MILLION (Celebrity Net Worth)
INVESTMENTS
Marquette University (Political Science); Married

Marcus A. Lemonis

The CEO of Camping World, Gander RV, and Good Sam Enterprises, Marcus Lemonis, was born in Lebanon during the civil war in the country, and was abandoned at an orphanage four days after his birth. He found his family when he was adopted in 1974, by parents Leo and Sophia Lemonis, a couple of Greek and Lebanese heritage, respectively, who lived in Miami, Florida.

Growing up, Lemonis struggled with weight issues, bullying and a lack of self-confidence; however, his mother taught him to embrace his unique qualities which allowed him to discover that he had a head for business and a gift for helping others.

Now 49, Lemonis grew up learning about the operations of the automotive industries as his grandfather owned two of the largest Chevrolet dealerships in the country (in Tampa and Miami). At the age of 12, he started a lawn-mowing business to raise funds to open a candy business. During his time at Marquette University, he served as the president of the Student Athletic Committee and organized clothing drives for the homeless in Milwaukee. At the young age of 22, he ran for the Florida House of Representatives and was endorsed by the Miami Herald, but ultimately lost the campaign.

Lemonis eventually took a job at AutoNation, the country’s largest car dealer, and worked his way up to regional manager. By the age of 25, Marcus seized an opportunity to reshape the way recreational vehicles and outdoor equipment were sold after taking some advice from a family friend, Lee Iacocca (the former head of Chrysler Corporation), who told him the path to long-term success lay in finding an industry that was ripe for transformation. Iacocca advised him to get into the camping and RV business, which put him on the path to eventual chairmanship at America’s #1 source for RV’s, camping accessories, and RV maintenance and repair.

Under his leadership and vision, Camping World would grow to become the nation’s largest RV retailer. In his current leadership role with Camping World Holdings, Inc., Good Sam Enterprises, and Gander Mountain Company, Inc., Lemonis controls an empire with cumulative revenue of over $6.5B, specializing in recreational vehicles and retail networks centered on the outdoors: hunting, fishing and camping.

Lemonis also founded The Simple Greek, a franchise of fast-casual Greek restaurants in 2015 which was acquired by the parent company of SaladWorks in 2021. In addition, in 2021, Lemonis wrapped his 8-season CNBC reality series The Profit, which focused on saving and investing in small businesses across the country. The show earned Lemonis the nickname the “Business Turnaround King.” The show also spawned spinoffs including the award-nominated Streets of Dreams, featuring Marcus educating himself and viewers about the financial workings of key industries, as well as special episodes of The Profit. In that same year, it was announced that Lemonis had acquired the rights of the game show Let’s Make a Deal. In October 2022, Marcus offered a sneak peek at his newest series, The Renovator, on HGTV and Discovery+, showcasing his ability to use design to transform people’s lives and their homes while building generational wealth.

With tens of millions of dollars donated to charitable organizations and invested in independent businesses, Marcus is an advocate for the underdog and finds his strongest inspiration by investing in people. He founded the Lemon-AID foundation in 2020 which supports women and minority entrepreneurs as well as small businesses. He also started a foundation called the Plating Change to combat food insecurity through a partnership with Grubhub and the World Central Kitchen. In December of 2021, and as part of his The Great American Tip-Off initiative, to which he pledged $1 million to kickstart a call to action for rewarding hard-working Americans during the season, Lemonis visited his high school, the Christopher Columbus High School, where he announced that every employee would be given a check for an $18,000 bonus. He followed that up with a $30,000 tip to the workers at Manhattan’s Comedy Cellar, which he gave jointly with Amy Schumer. More recently, Lemonis returned to his alma mater, Marquette University, to which he and his wife, Bobbi Raffelin, donated $15 million to create the Lemonis Center for Student Success, which will provide services for students across all majors, academic abilities, and backgrounds to enrich and expand student opportunities. “This initial gift is the start of building the road for others,” he commented.

 

26. TOM HANKS & RITA WILSON

California
$500M (Celebrity Net Worth)
ENTERTAINMENT
Married, 4 children

Tom Hanks

This power couple officially became ‘Greek’ after being granted honorary citizenship by Greece’s former President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos for their efforts to assist Greece by appealing for international aid after the devastating wildfire in Mati. [Under Greek law, honorary naturalization may be granted to people “who have provided exceptional services to the country or whose naturalization serves the public interest.”] The initiative first came from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had met Tom Hanks and discussed issues of Greek interest. The Prime Minister’s proposal to Hanks was reportedly accepted with enthusiasm, sources said, and was followed by the formal request to President Pavlopoulos by then-Minister of the Interior, Takis Theodorikakos.

Hanks converted to Greek Orthodoxy in 1988 prior to marrying Rita Wilson (whose mother was an ethnic Greek born in Albania), owns property and houses on the islands of Antiparos and Patmos, and has quietly supported several initiatives for Greece. The Guardian reported that Hanks, by his own admission, “is an ardent admirer of all things Hellenic.” The star has been visiting the country for years, spending nearly every summer on the Aegean island of Antiparos where he and Rita have a home.

Wilson was born to a Greek mother and a Bulgarian Muslim father, who immigrated to the United States in 1949. Wilson’s father eventually converted to the Greek Orthodox faith, in which Rita Wilson was raised.

Wilson is believed to have played a crucial role in Hanks’ decision to co-produce the romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding with her. The couple also produced Mamma Mia! and its sequel. In December of 2019, Hanks received the 2020 Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. During his acceptance speech Hanks said: “I’ve been Hellenic now for the better part of 32 years. Greece is a haven…the land, the sky, the water, it’s good for the soul. It’s a healing place, particularly if you get into that fabulous, fabulous Greek schedule of sleeping until noon, staying up until three o’clock in the morning and arguing in a taverna until 3 AM. It’s just the best life one can have.”

Over the past year, Hanks and Rita have been very busy. Hanks starred in three movies: Elvis (Colonel Tom Parker), Pinocchio (Geppetto) and A Man Called Otto (Otto); and has two more in the making: Asteroid City and Here. He is also producing My Big Fat Wedding 3. Rita, for her part, is also a producer for My Big Fat Wedding 3 which is set to be released later this year.

Wilson and Hanks attend St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church in Los Angeles and according to John Sanidopoulos’ blog, Hanks’ spiritual father was Father Robert Stephanopoulos, whose son is the well-known political commentator and TV host, George Stephanopoulos.

 

24. ANGELO K. TSAKOPOULOS

California
$600 MILLION (Celebrity Net Worth)
REAL ESTATE
California State University – Sacramento (Political Science & Business); Married, 6 children

Angelo K. Tsakopoulos

Angelo Tsakopoulos is a prominent, civic-minded businessman in the Sacramento region where he heads one of the area’s largest development firms. As a philanthropist and benefactor, he has made lasting contributions to the educational and cultural life of the greater community. He has lived his life expressing his belief in the Greek idea of “paideia,” or education.

Originally from the village of Rizes in Arcadia, Greece, this butcher’s son crossed not only the Atlantic to find a new home, but also traveled across the United States, his family reaching the country in New York before moving to Chicago, and eventually settling in California. Having lived under the Nazi occupation, the Tsakopoulos family came to America along with hundreds of other hopeful immigrants via steam ship. On his 15th birthday, he sailed into New York City’s harbor and saw Lady Liberty for the very first time. Tsakopoulos, now 86, moved to Chicago to live with family, before eventually continuing west to the San Joaquin Valley in California. Along the way, Tsakopoulos worked as a shoe shine boy and a farm hand. Encouraged by a close mentor to continue his education, Tsakopoulos studied political science and business at California State University, Sacramento where he was also a member of the boxing team. While there, he used the Americanized surname of Chicos – which he later dropped to reclaim his family’s name. While attending school, Tsakopoulos supported himself as a waiter and real estate salesman, foreshadowing his highly successful career in real estate development. He would eventually leave Sac State a few credits shy of graduation to work full time.

Tsakopoulos founded AKT Development Corporation in Sacramento, CA, which became a leading real estate development firm in the area under his leadership and has built more than 60,000 homes and more than 30 million square feet of office space. AKT also maintains a large commercial building portfolio and manages approximately 20,000 acres of farmland. In 2018, Tsakopoulos stepped down as CEO of AKT and his daughter, Chrysanthy (Chrysa) Demos took over the position. However, Chrysa has said her father is only ‘semi-retired.’

Tsakopoulos and his family have also been dedicated supporters of civic and community causes. Tsakopoulos has lived his life expressing his belief in the Greek idea of ‘paideia’ – education – and thus has made lasting contributions to the education and cultural life of the greater community. The Tsakopoulos family has donated land and funds to cultural institutions including the Greek Orthodox Church, the Crocker Art Museum, and the Roseville Arts Center. Tsakopoulos has also had a strong commitment to supporting education through the Angelo and Sofia Tsakopoulos Endowment Fund and as a co-chair for California State University, Sacramento’s Capital Campaign. To support the study and celebration of Greek heritage and history, Tsakopoulos served as an instrumental figure in the creation of the S.B. Vryonis Center for the Study of Hellenism in Sacramento. In 2018, the Tsakopoulos family donated $1 million to establish the Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Endowed Chair at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. Most recently, in September of 2020, the CEO of UC Davis Health announced a $2 million gift from Angelo and Sofia Tsakopoulos and Chrysa and George Demos to support the health system’s commitment to improve the health and well-being of older adults. In 2021, Tsakopoulos donated $250,000 toward the support of families who were displaced by the Caldor fire in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.

In 2016, Tsakopoulos, on his 80th birthday, was honored as a permanent part of the United States Congressional Record for “his legendary career in real estate development and his long history of philanthropy in California.” Tsakopoulos has also carved out a niche for himself as a major player in and fundraiser for the Democratic Party, and as a standard bearer for Greek political and cultural interests in America. He and his children have raised and contributed millions to national, state, and local campaigns over the past decade. Tsakopoulos is also dedicated to advancing the careers of Greek-American politicians, including former California state treasurer and once-gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides. His daughter, Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Hungary in 2010 and in 2018 was elected as California’s 50th Lieutenant Governor. Tsakopoulos, known for his larger than life persona, and his family have established Hellenic Studies chairs at several major American universities across the country: Georgetown, Stanford, and Columbia among them.

 

24. MICHAEL PSAROS

New York
$600 MILLION (TNHE)
INVESTMENTS
Georgetown University (Business); Married, 3 children

Michael Psaros

Michael Psaros, 55, is a co-founder and co-managing partner of KPS Capital Partners, LP (www.kpsfund.com), one of the world’s leading private equity firms with approximately $14 billion of assets under management. KPS, with offices in NY, Chicago, Amsterdam and Frankfurt, makes controlling equity investments in manufacturing and industrial companies across a diverse array of industries. KPS has completed 100 acquisitions through six institutional investment funds, comprising 48 platform investment companies and 65 follow-on acquisitions. KPS current portfolio companies have aggregate worldwide revenue of $22 billion, operate 232 manufacturing facilities in 27 countries and employ 52,000 people.

Psaros is the son of George and Mary Ann Psaros and grandson of four Greek immigrants from Olympoi, Chios and Halicarnassus (Bodrum) in Asia Minor. Psaros is devoted to his hometown of Weirton, West Virginia where the Psaros Family created the “Psaros Orthodox Church Endowment”, in the name of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to fund the Parish’s Priest in perpetuity at All Saints Greek Orthodox Church.

Mr. Psaros is a leading philanthropist and activist for Hellenic and Orthodox causes.

Mr. Psaros is the Chairman of the Friends of St. Nicholas, the organization responsible for rebuilding the St. Nicholas National Shrine at Ground Zero (www.StNicholasWTC.org).

Mr. Psaros serves on the Executive Committee of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and formerly served as its Treasurer, where he led a transformational financial restructuring.

Mr Psaros is an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, and serves on its National Council and on the Investment Committee of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation. He received the Archon Nicholas J. Bouras Award for Philanthropic Leadership in 2022.

He serves on the Board of Trustees of The Leadership 100 – Advancing Hellenism and Orthodoxy in America; the Executive Board of The Hellenic Initiative; and is a proud supporter of AHEPA and the Washington OXI Day Foundation.

Psaros serves on the Board of Directors of Georgetown University and serves as Vice Chairman of the University’s McDonough School of Business.

Mr. Psaros and his wife created “The Michael and Robin Psaros Endowed Chair in Business Administration” at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in 2013. The Psaros Family created the “The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Endowed Orthodox Chaplaincy, endowed by the Michael Psaros Family,” announced during the Apostolic Visit of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to Georgetown University in 2021. The Psaros Family also donated an Orthodox Christian Iconostasis and accompanying Iconography for the Copley Crypt Chapel at Georgetown University.

The Psaros Family named and endowed the “The Psaros Center for Financial Markets and Policy at Georgetown University” in 2022 (https://finpolicy.georgetown.edu). The Psaros Center provides unbiased, non-partisan, objective expertise to guide policy and practice by leveraging the strength of Georgetown University and its standing in Washington, D.C. The Psaros Center convenes leaders across the private sector, the global capital markets, legislators and regulators to solve problems for the common good. The Psaros Center is an intellectual honest broker, a facilitator, and an educator for both practitioners, policy makers seeking unbiased expertise in Washington and globally. The Psaros Center’s Distinguished Fellows provide expertise, research and thought leadership on critical issues of the day.

 

23. ARTHUR T. DEMOULAS

Massachusetts
$719 MILLION (TNHE)
SUPERMARKETS
Bentley College; Married, 4 children

Arthur T. Demoulas – Market Basket Logo

The Demoulas’ family supermarket empire began in 1917, when Greek immigrants Athanasios (Arthur) and Efrosine Demoulas opened a small market selling fresh lamb in Lowell, MA. In 1950, the original store model was revamped and premiered as the DeMoulas Superette. Arthur turned the business over to his two sons, George and Telemachus (Mike) in 1954. The following year, the Superette tripled in size and became DeMoulas Super Market. Over the next 17 years, the two brothers converted the lamb shop into a successful grocery chain of 15 stores. The brothers each signed a will naming the other as executor of his estate, and reportedly agreed to divide the business equally between their two families in the event of one of their deaths. Both brothers had four children, and both named a son Arthur, after their father.

Arthur T. Demoulas, born in 1955, attended Andover High School, where he played football. He spent his younger years working in the family business and joined the DeMoulas Super Markets Board of Directors after his first year at Bentley College and worked his way up to vice president of the company.

From their youth, both cousins (George’s son Arthur S. and Mike’s son Arthur T.) followed their fathers in the family business. In 1971, George, then 51, died unexpectedly while vacationing in Greece with his family. Mike continued to expand the chain and began opening stores under different names, including Market Basket. Tensions began brewing between the two families and erupted in the 1990s, when it came to light that Mike had been secretly shifting his brother’s half of the company assets into his own name after George’s death. Two decades of lawsuits followed with Mike’s son Arthur T. and his family on one side and Arthur S. on the other. The fight became extremely bitter with the two Arthurs openly saying in court and in public that they hated each other.

In 2013, Arthur S. gained control of the Board of Directors and proceeded to fire Arthur T. from his position as CEO six months later. As a result, thousands of Market Basket workers and their customers took to the streets to protest and boycott the family-owned supermarket and to demand that Arthur T. be given his job back. According to reports, the company lost around $400 million that summer. After seven weeks of negotiations, Arthur T. was back as CEO. The settlement included Arthur T.’s $1.6B cash buyout of Arthur S. and the rest of George’s heirs (according to Forbes).

Despite those difficulties, the business has flourished. Over the past decade it added approximately 30 new stores, a new perishable/produce distribution center, and has doubled its sales. Today, the Tewskbury-based DeMoulas Market Basket, Inc. owns 88 stores throughout New England, employs over 27,500 people and has billions in sales year after year ($5.9B in 2022). Market Basket was ranked by Consumer Reports as the second-best among all national supermarket chains, behind Wegmans. It was also ranked number 86 on Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies in 2022. 2022 brought another great recognition of Market Basket’s quality experience, as the company ranked 3rd in the annual Retail Preference Index, which surveyed 10,000 American households. This leading performance is made even more impressive by the fact that Market Basket, with its 88 stores, is third only to juggernaut Amazon, and H.E.B., a chain operating close to 350 stores in Texas and Mexico.

MIT wrote an article in 2019 entitled “The High Road Approach to Worker Compensation” which said of Demoulas and Market Basket: “Despite having more than 70 locations throughout New England, and revenue in the billions, Arthur T. had built a culture more like a mom and pop store. The CEO memorized the names and birthdays of employees. He visited workers when they were sick.”

According to the Lowell Sun, two foundations – the Telemachus and Irene Demoulas Family Foundation with $61 million in assets and the Demoulas Foundation with $30 million in assets – have donated millions to Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, schools, camps, hospitals, the Boston Ballet, and the Boston Museum of Science, Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, MA, Bentley University and Boston College. The greatest beneficiary, however, is the Lowell Plan, an economic development organization for the city, which has received well over $10 million in the last decade.

Arthur T. Demoulas lives in Lowell with his wife Maureen, with whom he has three daughters and a son.

 

22. JOHN PAPPAJOHN

Iowa
$743 MILLION (TNHE)
VENTURE CAPITAL
University of Iowa (Business); Married, 1 child

John Pappajohn

In a 2021 interview with the Des Moines Register, John Pappajohn stated that he had a goal of becoming the state of Iowa’s biggest philanthropist: “I don’t know who it is,” he said. “I want it to be me, though.”

Well into his 90s, Pappajohn continues to be a venture capitalist and a leader in his field. He is also an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, and a self-proclaimed workaholic – still working60 hours a well. In another interview with the Des Moines Register, a colleague described him as “an absolute maniac.” “I started working with him when he was 67. I can’t imagine him when he was mid-40s or 50s.

Pappajohn emigrated from Evia, Greece to the United States with his mother when he was just nine months old to join his father who was a U.S. citizen. He struggled during kindergarten because he spoke limited English. In the early 1930s, right before the Great Depression, Pappajohn’s father opened a grocery store (where Pappajohn could earn 10 cents a day by stocking shelves and performing various chores around the store). His father provided for families in the community during those pressing times, often allowing them to purchase on credit that he knew they wouldn’t be able to repay. The lessons that Pappajohn learned at the grocery store guided his eventual business career. When Pappajohn was older, he had to occasionally miss school to sell scrap to help support his family. “I became a scrap junk dealer. The junk yard was one block from our house. The man there – Harry Wolf – became a friend and a mentor; I would sell him something every day,” Pappajohn said. “I’d pick up pennies I found on the street. I still do; habit I guess.”

His father passed away when he was 16 years of age. Pappajohn worked his way through college and alternated working and attending school with his brothers – which is why it took him a few extra years to graduate. Eventually, Pappajohn earned his degree from the University of Iowa’s College of Business Administration in 1952. Despite many adversities, he is and always has been a strong advocate of PMA – a positive mental attitude. Pappajohn decided not to interview for a job after graduation – instead he knew he wanted to own his own business and thus decided to establish an insurance agency.

Eventually, in 1969, Pappajohn organized Equity Dynamics, Inc., a financial consulting entity and Pappajohn Capital Resources, a venture capital firm in Des Moines, IA. He became one of the early venture capitalists. Throughout his career, he has been an early investor in more than 100 companies, most of which are dedicated to healthcare and biotechnology industries. He has also been involved with over 100 startups, over 50 IPOs, and has served as Director in over 40 public companies. Much of Pappajohn’s success is built on a simple premise: he works longer and harder than everyone else. “I got a lot done. I’ve got a lot more things I want to get done,” Pappajohn said in a 2016 interview with the Des Moines Register.

Both Pappajohn and his late wife, Mary, have been avid philanthropists, having gifted more than $100 million to various causes; in 2017 the Chronicle of Philanthropy identified the biggest donors to charities in each of the 50 states and named Pappajohn the top philanthropist in Iowa. They partnered in numerous endeavors, providing millions for scholarships, business opportunities and community enhancements. Pappajohn’s charitable donations include the John & Mary Pappajohn Clinical Cancer Center and the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute Building at the University of Iowa. Pappajohn also organized and funded the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers at five Iowa universities and colleges for more than $30M. To date, over 150,000 college students have taken part in the latter, which have sparked over 1,000 new businesses. The Pappajohn Scholarship Foundation has distributed over $4 million in grants to support ethnic, disadvantaged, and/or minority students over the past 10 years. In December 2020, the food bank of Iowa and area churches distributed more than 1,000 holiday meals funded by the Pappajohns. In September 2021, John and Mary Papajohn announced an additional donation of $10M to fund the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers located at the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, Drake University, and North Iowa Area Community College.

In September 2009, the Des Moines Pappajohn Sculpture Park opened, featuring $40 million worth of the avid collector couple’s outdoor sculptures from their personal collection. Pappajohn has demonstrated a great love for the fine arts. He was named by Art News Magazine as one of the top 200 collectors in the world from 1997-2014. He was appointed to the advisory board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush and he currently serves on the National Committee of the Performing Arts for the Kennedy Center. He also serves as a member of the Trustees Council of the National Gallery of Art as well as on their Collectors Committee. He is a vice chairman of the board of trustees of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., is a member of the national committee with the Whitney Museum in NY, and is honorary director at the Des Moines Art Center.

Pappajohn’s church activities include the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Archdiocesan Council and executive committee, and Leadership 100 board of directors. He received the title of Archon from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in 2000.

Pappajohn is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Horatio Alger Award (1995), the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2000), and the Woodrow Wilson International Center Award for Corporate Citizenship (2007) – the first Iowan and the second Greek-American (Pete Peterson was the first) to receive the award. Most recently, Pappajohn was named #8 in the top 25 most influential business leaders of greater Des Moines of 2021 by Business Record. He has also received four honorary doctorate degrees.

Mary Pappajohn sadly passed away in 2022. John continues to live in Des Moines. The couple had one daughter, Ann Vassiliou.

 

21. JOHN PAYIAVLAS

Ohio
$816 MILLION (TNHE)
FOOD SERVICE INDUSTRY
Married, 2 children

John Payiavlas -AVI Logo

John Payiavlas, 92, is chairman of AVI Foodsystems, the country’s largest independently-owned and operated contract food service company, serving prestigious clients in the business, education, healthcare and leisure sectors.

A son of Greek immigrants, Anthony and Paraskevi, from Ohio and roots in the island of Chios, Payiavlas grew up in a working-class family with hopes of realizing the American dream. In 1951, Payiavlas was drafted into the United States Army and promptly left for basic training in Fort Riley, Kansas. In 1952, he was deployed to join the UN forces supporting South Korea and later transferred to the Greek Expeditionary Force Battalion. He was one of four Greek-Americans to serve in this Battalion and was awarded the Commander’s Silver Cross of Valour, the highest military decoration of the Greek state. Payiavlas completed his service in 1953 and was honorably discharged as Sergeant First Class.

Payiavlas’ successful journey in food service began when he and two friends opened and operated a local diner, the Village Café, in their small hometown of Warren, OH. In 1956, he married Marisa Tsagaris and four years later he founded AVI after a frequent customer presented him an opportunity to purchase a very small vending company known as Automatic Vendors. His decision to seize the opportunity later resulted in him running a multi-million-dollar corporation. From the beginning, Payiavlas was determined to make his business a success. Insisting on absolutely no shortcuts, he differentiated himself from the competition by providing homemade “from scratch” fresh foods for the refrigerated vending machines he serviced. During the 80s, the company entered new geographic markets as it added business dining and catering services. Colleges and universities as well as healthcare facilities were among AVI’s first clients. Since then, the company has grown immensely with 6,500 locations in 44 states and serves millions of consumers daily. They now provide dining, catering, vending, management and environmental food services. The company offers cafes, vending programs, catering services, concession venues, and beverage and coffee systems. Their clients include Ohio State University, FedEx, DirecTV, BMV of North America, Xerox, General Electric, Wellesley College, Progressive Insurance, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Verizon, and Xerox.

Intensely private, Payiavlas runs the company as chairman of the board, while his son Anthony is president and CEO and his daughter Patrice (Patsy) Kouvas serves as vice chairman (they have come a long way since they first started at the business by sweeping the floors, preparing sandwiches and assisting in the office). Family values, a strong work ethic and dedication to customer needs continue to permeate through thousands of team members in every facet of the business. As Chairman, Payiavlas has been actively involved while his children lead the organization with the same enthusiasm, commitment, and vision.

Payiavlas and his wife were honored in 2006 with the Cleveland Clinic’s Distinguished Fellow Award. They have supported several of the clinic’s initiatives, including the Heart and Vascular Institute, Taussig Cancer Center, Glickman Urological Institute, and Department of Nutrition Therapy. In April, 2017, the Payiavlas family donated $500,000 to Youngstown (OH) State University for their new sports media center. In 2000, Payivlas was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame of Northeast Ohio’s Inside Business Magazine. In October of 2016, the ‘Oxi’ Day Foundation honored Payiavlas with the first annual Jaharis Service Award sponsored by the Jaharis family. In 2022, Payiavlas was honored with the Lifetime Achievement of Chios Societies Award at the 65th National Chios Societies Convention He is Chairman Emeritus of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund, an Archon Depoutatos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as a member of AHEPA and other community and business organizations. Payiavlas is also a member of the board and treasurer 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.

The Payiavlas family, including their two children and six grandchildren, all reside in Warren, OH.

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