NEW YORK – The late Greek-Canadian billionaire Andreas Apostolopoulos who passed away at the age of 68 on February 15 of natural causes unrelated to COVID-19 was featured in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) for his purchase of the Silverdome in 2009.
Located in Pontiac, MI, the domed stadium “was the former home of the Detroit Lions football team,” WSJ reported, adding that Apostolopoulos’ “winning bid at an auction—made by telephone, before he had seen the property— was $583,000, less than many people pay for a suburban bungalow” and “that gave him a stadium built in the mid-1970s on a 127-acre plot for $55.7 million.”
Apostolopoulos “was surprised no one outbid him,” WSJ reported.
“It’s something different,” Apostolopoulos said of the stadium, WSJ reported, adding that “Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, and the Who had performed at the stadium” and “John Paul II celebrated a Mass there in 1987.”
“After the Lions moved to a new stadium in 2002, however, the city of Pontiac failed to find new tenants and couldn’t afford the upkeep,” WSJ reported, noting that among the ideas Apostolopoulos had for the Silverdome was to bring in a professional soccer franchise, but the plan did not work out.
Apostolopoulos’ Triple Group “managed to attract boxing matches and monster truck shows to the property, but those weren’t enough to keep an 80,000-seat stadium full,” WSJ reported, adding that “after a winter storm in 2013 shredded the inflatable canvas roof, the owners arranged for an auction of stadium contents, including pretzel warmers, copper wiring and urinals. That raised about $500,000.”
Triple Group “announced an international competition for the best redevelopment ideas in 2015,” WSJ reported, noting that “only a few entries were received, and none was found to qualify for the $3,000 prize.”
“In 2017, Triple Group paid several million dollars to demolish the stadium,” WSJ reported, adding that “Amazon.com Inc. now is redeveloping the site as a distribution center,” and “Apostolopoulos’ three sons, who head Triple Group, say their company’s investment in the Silverdome has been profitable.”
Triple Group “is preparing to open a casino, hotel and entertainment center called DLive in Pickering, Ontario, near Toronto, that the family describes as the start of a ‘mini Las Vegas,’” WSJ reported, noting that “it marks the most glamorous project ever launched by Apostolopoulos.”
“The son of a cafe owner, he was born September 25, 1952, in Messini, Greece,” WSJ reported, adding that “around age 11, he quit school.”
“I’m very good at math,” he told the Toronto Star in 2012. “On my school books there were times tables. I thought, ‘That’s all I need to know,’” WSJ reported.
He worked “odd jobs for a few years and then, following the example of an older sister, moved to Toronto in 1969, at age 17,” WSJ reported, noting that “within three days, he started work at a chicken-processing plant, where he learned to take apart chickens destined for Kentucky Fried Chicken frying vats.”
In Canada, Apostolopoulos also worked as an “electrical apprentice, taxi driver, movie-theater usher and office cleaner,” WSJ reported, noting that “he launched his own company providing office-cleaning services,” and “unhappy with the cost of plastic garbage bags, he went into business manufacturing those.”
“When he began investing in real estate, his approach was to find a vacant factory or warehouse in a distressed area and subdivide it for use by a variety of tenants,” WSJ reported, adding that “he built up a portfolio of properties in Canada, Greece, Australia and the U.S.” and “he was traveling in Greece in 2009 when one of his sons, Jim Apostolopoulos, spotted an advertisement for the Silverdome auction.”
Apostolopoulos “knew there would be heavy costs in trying to revive the Silverdome,” WSJ reported.
“It’s not what you pay for the property,” he told WSJ after purchasing the stadium. “It’s what you’re going to have to spend to fix it. It will take time and a lot of money.”
Apostolopoulos “liked the location, near the junction of two freeways, about 30 miles north of downtown Detroit,” WSJ reported, noting that “when he arrived to inspect his new property, he also liked the Detroit area, where a severely depressed economy had slashed real-estate prices.”
In 2012, he purchased the Penobscot Building, “Detroit’s third-tallest office tower, for $5 million,” WSJ reported, adding that “the price came to $5 a square foot, compared with an average of $200 for office buildings nationwide at the time, according to Real Capital Analytics.”
The building, only about half occupied, was in need of serious renovation.
“Detroit’s going to be coming up again,” Apostolopoulos said at the time, WSJ reported. “I think the city is already bankrupt. I don’t think it could get any worse than it is.”
The Penobscot is still owned by Triple Group and “some tenants have complained publicly about maintenance failures” which “Triple Group says it has addressed those problems,” WSJ reported.
Apostolopoulos is survived by his wife, Joanna, three sons, five grandchildren, a sister and three brothers.
His advice to his sons was to “buy bricks, not paper,” WSJ reported.