20. JOHN P. CALAMOS, SR. - Illinois $820 MILLION (TNHE) GLOBAL ASSET MANAGEMENT Illinois Institute of Technology (Economics); Married, 2 children
John P. Calamos, Sr., 79, is founder and chairman of Calamos Investments, a global asset management firm. The son of Greek immigrants, he 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 15 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. 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 had 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. One of his early employees was his older brother, Angelo, who retired from the company in 2004. Calamos also 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. The company traces its roots to the 1970s when Calamos used convertible securities, which were little known at the time, to help his clients grow and preserve their wealth.
Today, the firm, headquartered in Chicago with additional offices in London, New York, San Francisco, and Miami, 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. The company offers its investment capabilities through separately managed portfolios, mutual funds, closed-end funds, private funds and UCITS funds. 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 interviewed regularly by 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.
His entrepreneurial activities extend beyond the financial services sector, with a private real estate arm, Calamos Real Estate LLC.
Calamos established the John P. Calamos Foundation, which supports a number of scholarship initiatives in the Greek community. He and his wife also endowed Illinois Institute of Technology’s first endowed chair in philosophy. Since 2012, he has also 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.” In addition, he and his wife were recognized as 2014 Distinguished Citizens by the Three Fires Council, Boy Scouts of America last October. The Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology also honored Calamos in 2018. Most recently, he was honored by the Washington ‘Oxi’ Day Foundation with the Michael Jaharis Service Award for his service to our country in the Vietnam War, to the Greek-American community, our country, and to the world.
Calamos is married and has two children. He and his wife, Mae, are active philanthropists. He is a trustee of the Illinois Institute of Technology and of Benedictine University.
19. KOSTA & TOM KARTSOTIS $902 MILLION (TNHE) WATCHES, LEATHER ACCESSORIES
Kosta, 66, and Tom Kartsotis, 59, are founders of the Fossil Group, Inc., whose brand is widely associated with watches, jewelry, and other accessories, as well as clothing.
Kosta serves as chairman and CEO of Fossil. Meanwhile, Tom, who founded the company, still owns a small stake, but in 2003 founded Bedrock Manufacturing (named after the hometown of the Flintstones of cartoon fame), a Texas-based private equity and brand management firm, which takes up most of his time. Under this firm, Tom launched Shinola, a high-end watch brand, famous for being manufactured in Detroit.
Tom dropped out of Texas A&M and traveled to Asia with a plan to import cheap toys – but ultimately decided on Asian-made, moderately priced, watches. With $200,000 that he had earned from scalping tickets, Tom opened a company importing watches from Hong Kong – which ultimately morphed into the brand called Fossil. Kosta helped get the line into department stores. Tom and Fossil head designer Lynne Stafford (who he later married) put their own spin on the watches and in less than ten years, the brand ended up going public and, along the way, grew from a small watch company into a global lifestyle brand, selling billions worth of watches, handbags, and clothing annually.
Based in Richardson, Texas, Fossil was founded in 1984, has almost 11,000 employees and sells its products in 120 countries around the world. The company designs and manufactures accessories and its brands include Fossil, Relic, Abacus, Michele Watch and Zodiac. Fossil also branched into the sale of leather goods and other accessories in the 1990s. The company works closely with other brands such as Burberry, DKNY, Emporio Armani, Columbia Sportswear, Diesel, Michael Kors, Kate Spade and Adidas. Fossil also produces collectibles, some of which are based on popular films or pop culture characters.
In 2011, Tom Kartsotis’ Bedrock and Swiss movement maker Ronda embarked on a joint venture to create Shinola, a Detroit-made watch collection. According to Forbes, Shinola had originally been a shoe polish that was created by the American Chemical Manufacturing Company, founded in 1877 in Rochester, New York. The company made cleaning products and shoe and boot polish that the company called Shinol’a. The product was packaged in a tin with an easy lift-off lid and became so popular that by 1917, the company became known as The Shinola Company. The phrase “You don’t know S**t from Shinola” was coined during World War II – and was slang for saying how ‘dumb’ someone was. The saying made the brand even more popular. Unfortunately, Shinola went out of business in 1960 – making it easy for Kartsotis to buy the name to start his new Detroit-based watch and accessories company.
As the (new) Shinola website says, the company operates an “in-house watch and leather factory on the fifth floor of the Argonaut Building, where a team of artisans hand assembles luxury timepieces and crafts premium leather straps.”
In 2019, Marc Jacobs announced a partnership with the makers of Shinola to launch a new line of watches. More recently, they have partnered with IMG, a global brand marketing and licensing company, have unveiled an even more affordable watch design (the Detrola) and have launched the Great American Collection which features limited-edition watch designs honoring people like Smokey Robinson, the Detroit-born singer/songwriter who just celebrated his 80th birthday.
Shinola also started manufacturing bicycles and opened up its first hotel, Shinola Hotel, a few months ago. The 129-room, eight-story boutique hotel is part of a multi-million-dollar development project by Shinola and Bedrock, which has acquired and developed more than 100 properties in Detroit since 2011 – as reported by The New York Times and The Star Tribune. The company has hired hundreds of people in Detroit and across the country (over 600). In an interview with Venture in America, Tom said he started Shinola not as a money-making venture, but as a project to see how many American jobs he could create. When the interviewer asked him about this, he shrugged and said: “we did it for sport. We did it to create jobs and simply to see if it was possible.”
Priding himself as a creator of American jobs, Tom was featured in Business of Fashion in 2016 for doing just that. Among the fans of Shinola watches, are former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. President Obama in 2016 also presented a special Shinola watch, engraved with the Presidential seal on the back and with a case also featuring the seal, to then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the Washington Post reported.
18. GEORGE D. BEHRAKIS - Massachusetts $930 MILLION (MassLive) PHARMACEUTICALS Northeastern University; Married, 4 children
George D. Behrakis, now 86, is the son of Greek immigrants. Born on New Year’s Day in 1934, Behrakis was raised in Lowell, MA.
Behrakis 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 created 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 a leading asthma medication, Slophyllin and Slobid. He sold the company to Rhone-Poulenc Rorer (now Aventis) and purchased ophthalmic firm Muro Pharmaceuticals in 1978. Behrakis sold his eye care products to Bausch and Lomb and searched for new products, including pharmaceuticals for asthma and allergies. Behrakis sold the firm to Asta-Medica AG, a division of German conglomerate Degussa, retiring as president and CEO in 1998.
He became best known, perhaps, for his talent in solubilizing previously insoluble chemicals and making them stable for medical use. 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.
Behrakis is truly a well-deserved renowned philanthropist. He and his wife Margo established the Behrakis Foundation, a private family foundation in Massachusetts. Through this foundation they have funded major initiatives including establishing chairs and 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). They 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. He has also recently embarked on the revitalization of the business community in his hometown in Lowell through the renovation of historic buildings.
However, of all his philanthropic endeavors, the most dear to Behrakis is the anti-smoking campaign in Greece (Smoke Free Greece) he helped fund. Almost a decade ago, he 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 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 percent and to date, he has come very close. Since then he 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.
Probably no institution has received as much from Behrakis as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. 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 $25 million to the museum since 2006 and the museum now has the new George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing, which houses Greek, Roman, and Egyptian galleries.
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.
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 and Margo have been married for over 50 years and have four children and several grandchildren.
A recipient of innumerable awards for his contributions to business, science, the arts, and the Greek Orthodox Church, he 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 is currently on the advisory board of the Harvard School of Public Health and most 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.”
17. DR. P. ROY VAGELOS - New Jersey 1.0 BILLION (TNHE) PHARMACEUTICALS, HEALTHCARE University of Pennsylvania (Chemistry); Married, 4 children
Dr. Pindaros Roy Vagelos, now 90 years old, was born in Rahway, NJ in 1929 – just before the infamous stock market crash. In 1943, about 20 years after they had emigrated to the United States from Asia Minor, Vagelos’ parents, Herodotus and Marianthi Vagelos 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.
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 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 free to cure millions of Africans of river blindness.
Since 1995, Vagelos has been chairman of biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which employs 7,400 people and had sales of $6.7 billion in 2019 (Forbes). He is also currently the chairman of Theravance, Inc. (which he also founded), another biopharmaceutical company, based out of California.
After retiring from Merck (due to the company rule that CEOs retire at age 65), Vagelos was chairman of the University of Pennsylvania’s board of trustees from 1994 to 1999, having served as a trustee since 1988. 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 the University of Pennsylvania 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 to Penn in order to build a center to connect physical scientists and engineers who are focused on energy-related solutions. It is the largest gift in the history of the School of Arts and Sciences. As The National Herald reported in May 2016, the Vageloses’ philosophy is simple: “giving back.”
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 the 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. Altogether, the Vageloses have been responsible for about $450 million in philanthropy to Columbia’s medical school alone.
The author of several books, including an autobiography, Medicine, Science and Merck, and 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 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. Vagelos has been married to his wife, Diana (nee Touliatos) for almost 65 years. They live in New Jersey and have four children and several grandchildren.
16. DR. GEORGE YANCOPOULOS - New York $1.2 Billion (Forbes) PHARMACEUTICALS Columbia University; 4 children
Dr. George Yancopoulos, 60, joined Regeneron Laboratories in 1989 as its Founding Scientist and is currently the company’s President and Chief Scientific Officer.
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, 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.
He was selected in 2004 as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Along with key members of his team, he is a principal inventor and developer of Regeneron's seven FDA-approved drugs and foundational technologies, including the TRAP technology, VelociGene® and VelocImmune®. Just this month Regeneron announced that the FRA approved EYLEA Injection to treat all stages of diabetic retinopathy – a disease affecting approximately eight million people. Yancopoulos also developed “the most valuable mouse ever made,” bred to have immune systems that respond just as a human’s would, so that it can be used for testing how the human body might react to various pharmaceuticals and other substances. Most recently, Regeneron has partnered with the U.S. government to develop an effective treatment for the new Chinese coronavirus, using drugs that the company developed to fight the Ebola virus.
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, in 2017, Yancopoulos took home approximately $270 million, based on calculations of his actual realized stock gains (which was the largest paycheck of any health care executive in 2017).
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.
He 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.”
15. EDWARD ZANDER - California 1.3 Billion (WALLMINE) TECHNOLOGY Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Married, 2 children
Brand new on The National Herald’s list this year, 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 was given the nickname ‘Fast Eddie’ by his friends largely because of 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.”
Zander's first career choice was electrical engineering, which he studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. 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, a "lousy engineer" (June 19, 2000).
Zander spent many decades in the technology sector and has played a key role in shaping some of the major paradigm shifts in technology that impact the world today. These include the move from mainframes to minicomputers; minicomputers to workstations; PCs to networking and to the Internet; hardware to software; and the revolution in wireless devices and mobility.
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. 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 president and chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems until 2002. During his 15 years at the company, he grew Sun to $18 billion in revenues; 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, Ed was responsible for developing the "dot in dot com” campaign establishing Sun as a leader in Internet computing. Before Sun, Ed worked at Apollo Computer as vice president of marketing and at Data General in a number of marketing and engineering positions.
However, what Zander is probably best known for is being chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Motorola. During his 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 on 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.
Currently, Zander is a member of the board of directors at Seagate Technology, Netezza Corp., and NetSuite, as well as a member of several advisory boards of civic, philanthropic and educational foundations, like Jason Foundation for Education, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and School of Management at Boston University. In January of last year, Zander and his wife were honored with the Catalyst Award (the Glaucoma Research Foundation’s highest honor) at the Glaucoma 360 Annual Gala for their commitment to advancing medical research.
14. TED J. LEONSIS - Maryland $1.3 BILLION (Celebrity Net Worth) INTERNET, VENTURE CAPITAL, PROFESSIONAL SPORTS Georgetown University (American Studies); Married, 2 children
Theodore J. Leonsis, the grandson of Greek immigrants, was born to a family of modest means in Brooklyn, New York and spent his early years there. His family later 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. She was very wrong. 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.
Few people have roots as deep in the computer industry, or as much knowledge and experience of its history and potential. 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.
Leonsis is probably best known for his involvement in our nation’s capital’s sports world. He is the founder, chairman, CEO and majority owner of Monumental Sports and Entertainment (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 Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C. The partnership also operates Kettler Capitals Iceplex (the Washington Capitals’ training facility and front office headquarters) and the George Mason University Patriot Center.
Leonsis is also a co-founder and partner at Revolution Growth Fund, chairman of the Groupon board of directors, 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.
In 2015 he became Board Chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program, a private non-profit organization that encourages and enables public high school students to enroll in and graduate from college. After surviving an airplane crash landing in 1983, Leonsis resolved to “rethink [his] priorities and how [he] planned to lead [his] life going forward.” He drafted a list of 101 goals to accomplish. To date he has completed 74 of the tasks, including owning a sports franchise, playing one-on-one basketball with Michael Jordan, and starting a family charity foundation. (See the complete list at tedstake.com.) In 2010, he published The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Life and Work.
Leonsis and his wife, Lynn, live 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.
13. JAMES S. CHANOS - New York $1.5 BILLION (Celebrity Net Worth) INVESTMENTS Yale University (Economics & Political Science); 4 children
James S. Chanos, 62, is a second generation Greek-American who grew up in Milwaukee, WI. His father owned a chain of dry cleaning stores in Milwaukee and his mother worked as an office manager at a steel company.
Chanos is informally known as “Wall Street’s most notable bear.” In 1985, he founded Kynikos Associates (in Greek, “kynikos” means cynic) – the world’s largest exclusive short-selling hedge fund – after a Wall Street career as a financial analyst. Today, Chanos serves as president of Kynikos, which has offices in New York and London. He is renowned for predicting – and profiting from – the 2001 Enron Corporation scandal.
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.” Later on, Chanos successfully predicted Sotheby’s stock drop – it plummeted in November 2007 from $57 to $10. He even foresaw the global financial meltdown of 2008. In April 2007 at a finance ministers’ conference in Washington, DC, he warned that American banks and brokerage firms were highly vulnerable to a real estate crash because of the vast amounts of dubious mortgages they held. More recently, Chanos has taken swipes at the electric car maker, Tesla (and Elon Musk), claiming that the company's equity is “worthless.”
More recently, in October of 2019, Chanos bet against Grubhub. He said that the food delivery company makes almost nothing per order and is running into competition and labor issues. In an interview with the Financial Times, Chanos said that October actually ended up being “one of [his company’s] best months – both absolutely and relatively – in a long time.”
In March, 2006, Chanos created the Coalition of Private Investment Companies, an organization aimed at promoting hedge funds in Washington. Recently, the lobbying group has shifted its attention to Europe.
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 is a graduate of Yale University, where he studied economics and political science. Organizations he supports include 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. He has also been known to be politically active; in June of 2019, he hosted a fundraiser for Joe Biden in his home in Manhattan.
Chanos is currently a lecturer in finance and a Becton Fellow at the Yale School of Management, where he teaches a class on the history of financial fraud. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Historical Society, and the National WWII Museum. He was divorced in 2006 and lives in New York City with his four children.
12. GEORGE M. MARCUS - California $1.6 BILLION (FORBES) REAL ESTATE San Francisco State University (Economics); Married, 4 Children
Born George Mathew Moutsanas in 1941 on the island of Evia in Greece during World War II, George Marcus, now 78, emigrated to the United States at the age of 4. His family settled in San Francisco’s blue-collar Potrero Hill neighborhood, where, he has said, his top priority was fitting in. It was in this neighborhood that Marcus eventually met his future wife, Judy. According to an interview with the Nob Hill Gazette, Marcus was friends with Judy’s younger brother – they knew each other since elementary school. However, it wasn’t until after Marcus came home from the military that his friend, Judy’s brother, suggested that he should go on a date with his sister.
Marcus completed his undergraduate studies in Economics at San Francisco State University in just two and a half years, and founded the University’s first economics club. He also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the California State University System in 1981-89. He was named SFSU Alumnus of the year in 1989 and one of its 11 Distinguished Centennial Alumni in 1999. He and his wife (also an SFSU alum), helped create SFSU’s International Center for the Arts with a $3 million gift. Marcus also helped develop SFSU’s Greek Studies program, and chairs its Modern Greek Studies Foundation, which supports the Nikos Kazantzakis Chair for Modern Greek Studies.
Marcus went on to found G.M. Marcus & Company, which evolved into Marcus & Millichap Company (MMC), with the help of his business partner, William A. Millichap four decades ago. MMC is one of the country’s premier providers of investment real estate brokerage services, and the parent company of a diversified group of real estate, service, investment, and development firms. According to Forbes, MMC closed nearly 9,000 transactions valued at $42.3 billion in 2016.
MMC’s featured company, Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, has established itself as a leading real estate firm with more than 1,200 brokers in markets throughout the United States. With dozens of offices across the United States and Canada, the firm concentrates on investment brokerage, and provides financing and research services to both buyers and sellers. Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services went public with 6 million shares in October 2013, generating net proceeds to the company of about $34.6 million. In 2015, due to the company’s success, Marcus’ net worth catapulted him from millionaire to billionaire.
Marcus is also chairman of Essex Property Trust, a publicly held, multi-family real estate investment trust (REIT). Located in Palo Alto, CA and traded on the New York Stock Exchange, Essex is a fully integrated REIT that acquires, develops, and redevelops apartment communities in select west coast locales. The company, according to Forbes, currently owns almost 60,000 apartments along the West Coast (with sales of $1.4 billion as of 2018). Marcus is also one of the original founders of Plaza Commerce Bank and Greater Bay Bancorp. He served on Greater Bay’s board of directors until it was sold to Wells-Fargo in 2007 for $1.5 billion.
Along with another Greek-American couple, George and Judy Marcus opened the successful Evvia restaurant in Palo Alto in 1995, and its sister restaurant Kokkari in San Francisco in 1999. Known for its rustic and elegant cuisine and environment, Kokkari enjoys its standing as the premier Greek restaurant and a favorite of the local Democratic establishment.
Marcus supports many organizations of the Greek-American community. In 2008, he co-founded and is the current Chairman Emeritus of the National Hellenic Society, which brings together distinguished Greek-Americans on a national level to preserve their heritage. His considerable commitments to the Greek Orthodox Church and the Community include memberships on the boards of directors of the Modern Greek Studies Foundation, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, International Orthodox Christian Charities, the Elios Society of Northern California, Leadership 100, and many others. He is also involved with The Hellenic Initiative, the Washington ‘Oxi’ Day Foundation, and the Taube Foundation.
In February 2017, The National Herald reported that Marcus donated $1 million to the Hellenic College and Holy Cross Theological School (HCHC) in Massachusetts. And just a few weeks ago, he donated another $2M towards the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center in Manhattan. The Marcuses also support non-Greek causes as well. For example, last year, they gave San Francisco State University a $25 million gift to benefit the school’s liberal arts program (the largest grant ever given to that institution). Earlier this year they gave $10M to Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School which will be used to establish an endowment – a gift that the school’s president calls “transformational.”
The Marcuses have also been major political donors, mostly to Democratic and liberal causes. Most recently, Marcus has become one of Joe Biden’s largest donors (according to Forbes). He gave $1M to a super PAC supporting the former vice president in December and hosted a fundraiser for him in the fall.
11. JAMIE DIMON - New York $1.7 BILLION (Forbes) FINANCE Tufts University (Psychology & Economics); Married, 3 children
Jamie Dimon, 63, is chairman and CEO of America’s largest bank JPMorgan Chase, and considered one of the nation’s most powerful people.
Dimon was born and raised in New York City with his older brother Peter and his fraternal twin Ted. To ensure their surname sounded French (and not Greek), his paternal grandfather changed the family surname from Papademetriou to Dimon when he emigrated from Smyrna. Dimon’s grandfather became a broker and passed his knowledge of the business onto his son, Theodore (Dimon’s father). Dimon’s father and grandfather worked together for 19 years and Jamie joined them during the summers in their New York office. In a 2016 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 that same year, 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.
For the 2013 fiscal year Dimon received a 74% pay raise to $20 million, which has continued to increase since (his current salary is $31.7 million, after a record 2019 profit for JPMorgan). The Wall Street Journal said that Dimon looks set to remain the highest-paid CEO in the banking industry.
According to Forbes’ 2019 list of the world’s largest companies, JPMorgan is the largest and most powerful public company in the country, and second in the world behind one Chinese bank (ICBC). Its market value was estimated at nearly $370 billion. It is one of the oldest financial institutions in the United States, with a history dating back over 200 years, a presence in over 100 markets, and over 250,000 employees. The firm has assets of $2.7 trillion and serves millions of customers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional, and government clients.
Dimon has been on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world four times since 2006 and on Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders for 2018 list. He is also on the Board of Directors of Harvard Business School and the Board of Trustees of New York University School of Medicine.
In July 2014, Dimon said he had been diagnosed with throat cancer. The following December, he announced to his staff that he had concluded treatment and that after testing, his doctors found no evidence of cancer in his body, although he will continue to be monitored. Even though he continued to work during his treatment, he had cut back on his schedule. By 2016, it appeared the cancer was in remission and he had a good long-term prognosis.