Cretan businessman Theodoros Vassilakis, who founded Aegean Airlines and made it one of Europe’s best carriers – the best many years running – and started other businesses including car rental company Autohellas-Hertz and car retailer Autotechnica Velmar, has died at 78.
He was also a founding member of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) and had started a push for golf tourism in Greece, creating the Aegean Airlines Pro-Am international tournament and the Crete Golf Club, a golf course of international standards near Iraklio.
One of his companies became Greece’s for Saab and Seat – as well as the Hertz franchise for Greece, Cyprus, several other Balkan countries and the Ukraine.
He began in business on his home island, in Iraklio, in 1961 and over a 57-year career became a noted entrepreneur who created companies providing thousands of jobs and showed off the good side of his home country, especially during a now eight-year-long economic and austerity crisis in which Aegean shined.
Aegean overtook the country’s national carrier Olympic, which he went on to buy, saving it from going under. Aegean has grown so much that in March the company signed a deal to buy up to 42 new Airbus plans for $5 billion, the biggest private investment in Greece.