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John Pappajohn, 93, 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 working 7 days a week (as reported by Iowa Innovation in June of 2019). In an 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.”
In an interview with Iowa Magazine in 2018, Pappajohn said, “I never anticipated being 90…I’m in my office every Saturday and Sunday. Mary is a very understanding wife, and when she calls, I go home. But I’m very active in my venture business, and I’m doing very exciting things. My incentive isn’t to be rich; it’s to do what I want in philanthropy. Mary and I feel strongly that a successful life must include service to society and our fellow man. This is how we will be judged. We must all try to make a difference in this world.”
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. He did not 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 wife, Mary, are 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 have partnered in numerous endeavors, providing millions for scholarships, business opportunities, and community enhancements. His charitable donations helped establish the John & Mary Pappajohn Clinical Cancer Center, and Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers at five Iowa universities and colleges (where he has personally donated $23M and has committed $10M more). 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 Pappajohn 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. He has demonstrated a great love for the fine arts: Pappajohn 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, DC 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, DC, a member of the national committee with the Whitney Museum in NY, and 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 received four honorary doctorate degrees and in 2013 he received the Gabby Award for philanthropy from the Greek America Foundation.
The Pappajohns live in Des Moines and have one daughter, Ann Vassiliou. In late December of this 2020, Pappajohn sadly lost his younger brother, Aristotle (90), after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
19. JOHN PAYIAVLAS
$766 MILLION (TNH)
FOOD SERVICE INDUSTRY
Married, 2 children
John Payiavlas, 89, is chairman of AVI Foodsystems, the country’s largest family-owned and operated contract food service company, serving prestigious clients in the business, education, healthcare and leisure sectors.
A son of Greek immigrants 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. The company has grown immensely with 6,500 locations in 44 states and serves millions of consumers daily. 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 Washington ‘Oxi’ Day Foundation honored Payiavlas with the Jaharis Service Award sponsored by the Jaharis Family. He is a Lifetime Chairman 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 of the Friends of St. Nicholas.
The Payiavlas family, including their two children and six grandchildren, all reside in Warren, OH.
18. GEORGE D. BEHRAKIS
Northeastern University; Married, 4 children
George D. Behrakis, 88, is the son of Greek immigrants. Born on New Year’s Day in 1934, Behrakis was raised in Lowell, MA, and graduated from Northeastern University in 1957 with a degree in pharmaceuticals. After completing his military service, Behrakis began his career in 1959 at McNeil Laboratories (a division of Johnson & Johnson) where he and his team marketed Tylenol (which eventually became a household name). Thus began Behrakis’ career as a recognized leader in the pharmaceutical industry.
In 1968, he founded Dooner Laboratories, which developed and manufactured leading asthma medications, Slophyllin and Slobid. After selling it nine years later, he purchased Muro Pharmaceuticals, which first worked on skin and eye products and later moved on to asthma and immunology products. With Behrakis, as the head, Muro was highly successful, and he sold the company in 1996. He remained on the board for two additional years, retiring in 1998. It was after his retirement that Behrakis began another career – this time in philanthropy.
With the help of Behrakis, Northeastern University and the Medical Center in Boston opened the Behrakis Health Sciences Center (which houses the Northeastern Schools of Health Professions Nursing and Pharmacy) and created the Center for Drug Discovery in 2003. In his hometown of Lowell, Behrakis embarked on another project focusing on the revitalization of the business community through the renovation of the city’s historical buildings.
Behrakis and his wife Margo also established the Behrakis Foundation, a private family foundation in Massachusetts through which they have funded major initiatives including establishing chairs and funding scholarships at various universities and medical centers (for example: Northeastern University, University of Mississippi, Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology, Tufts University, Johns Hopkins University, Bringham and Women’s Hospital and many others).
Behrakis also established and donated the George D. Behrakis Research Lab, a state of the art laboratory for Lung Function Testing, to the Hellenic Cancer Society in 2008. In conjunction with the lab, SmokeFreeGreece, a campaign series of coordinated actions organized by the Research Lab and the Institute of Public Health (American College of Greece), was created to help reduce (and ideally eradicate) smoking in Greece. Almost a decade ago, Behrakis was shocked to see two women passing out free cigarettes to 11 and 12-year-old girls in front of a school in the wealthy Athenian suburb of Kifissia. 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%. According to a press release published on February 24, 2021, a comparison of three surveys conducted by the Hellenic Statistical Authority in 8500 households in 2009, 2014, and 2019, shows a decrease of daily smokers by 24.5% and occasional smokers by 38.3%. Since 2010, Behrakis has donated more funds to publish a self-help guide to quitting, produce school programs, and further study at the academy of Athens on the effects of smoking. For his efforts to promote the cessation of smoking in Greece, the Greek Post honored him by issuing a stamp with his picture.
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has also benefited from Behrakis. His relationship with the museum dates back to his high school days, when his uncle, John Zaroulis, took him to see the galleries. Later, Behrakis would host parties at the Museum. He became a member in 1989, a patron in 1996, and an overseer in 1998. Then, one day in 2001, Behrakis showed up for lunch with MFA Director Malcolm Rogers and handed him a sealed envelope. Inside was a check for $2 million to endow Christine Kondoleon’s position as curator of Greek and Roman Art. He has given at least $25 million to the museum since 2006. The museum is home to the George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing, which houses Greek, Roman, and Egyptian galleries. In December 2021, and with the continued support of George and Margo Behrakis, their namesake Wing for Art of the Ancient World at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston unveiled the transformation of five galleries dedicated to art from ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire.
In 2011, the 50 plus-year-member of AHEPA was honored with the organization’s Archbishop Iakovos Humanitarian Award in Orange, CT. In October 2014, he was honored by The Hellenic Initiative, a non-profit institution focused on supporting Greece through crisis relief, entrepreneurship, and economic development. Like Metropoulos, featured supra, the Hellenic Post issued stamps dedicated to Behrakis for his contribution to enhancing the country’s international presence in the field of philanthropy. In 2018, he was awarded the Leonidian Award during the 70th annual Convention of the Pan-Laconian Federation of the USA and Canada. He is also a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award.
Behrakis, a former president of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, is a member of the Archdiocesan Council’s Executive Committee and an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is a chairman emeritus of Leadership 100. He is recipient of innumerable awards for his contributions to business, science, the arts, and the Greek Orthodox Church, and sits on the board of trustees of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and is vice chairman emeritus of Northeastern University. He has served on many boards of both public and private companies. He recently joined the Board of Directors of AZTherapies, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company developing therapeutics to extend brain health. In December 2015, Behrakis was given an honorary doctorate from the Medical Faculty of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens for his contributions to science, pharmaceuticals, and medicine, and for his extensive humanitarian endeavors. Extremely moved by the experience, he told TNH in February, 2016 that “you can receive a lot of honors, but when you receive an honor from your own, your family, being first-generation Greek, to receive an honor from Greece is one of the high points of my life.”
Behrakis and his wife Margo have been married for 60 years and have four children and several grandchildren.
17. DEAN SPANOS
$1.0 Billion (Celebrity Net Worth)
SPORTS, REAL ESTATE
University of the Pacific (Business Administration), Married, 2 Children
Dean Alexander Spanos is the son of the late Alexander Gus Spanos – a dear friend and supporter of the Greek-American community.
Spanos, 72, is now the chairman and owner of the National Football League’s Los Angeles Chargers Franchise, the team in which his father purchased a majority interest in 1984.
Born in 1950, Spanos grew up in Stockton, CA. He attended Lincoln High School where he earned varsity letters in football and golf. He then went to the University of the Pacific where he graduated in 1972 with a BA in business administration.
Spanos began working for the San Diego Chargers franchise alongside his father. He took over the daily operations from his father in 1994, becoming president and CEO, until he passed those responsibilities to his own sons, John and A.G., in 2015. Spanos took over full ownership of the team after his father’s death in 2018.
After a proposed ballot measure for a hotel tax financed stadium plan in downtown San Diego failed in November 2016 with only 43% approval, the Chargers weighed their option to return to the Los Angeles market (they were originally founded as a Los Angeles-based team in 1959 before relocating to San Diego in 1961). In January 2017, Spanos exercised the option to relocate the team to Los Angeles. In 2020, construction was completed on the Chargers’ new stadium, SoFi Stadium, which is shared with the Los Angeles Rams. The venue is owned and operated by StadCo LA, LLC., a joint partnership with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and the Los Angeles Chargers. In early 2022, Spanos’ nephews, Dimitri and Lex Economou, filed a lawsuit against him over financial issues stemming from the structure of the family trust that owns 36% of the Chargers, and which have to do with the distribution of profits derived in connection to SoFi Stadium revenues.
Spanos carries multiple titles. He is a member of the NFL’s Management Council Executive Committee (CEC) where he has played an integral role in negotiating the NFL’s current labor agreement. He also serves as President of the A.G. Spanos Companies, and along with his brother, Michael, oversees all construction operations nationwide.
According to the Chargers website, the Spanos family has a multi-generation commitment to community involvement, and is recognized as one of the NFL’s most philanthropic families and one of California’s most active and caring contributors to local causes. Their financial and emotional support for youth, sports, education, and the brave men and women in uniform has been a hallmark of their team ownership and legacy.
Spanos has also been a long-time contributor to many important charities and organizations working to improve the lives of children and families, including: the Make-A-Wish Foundation, American Cancer Society, Armed Services YMCA, Rady Children’s Hospital, Girl Scouts, Huntington’s Disease Society, San Diego Blood Bank, STAR/PAL, Special Olympics of Southern California, San Diego Food Bank, Casa de Amparo, and the Salvation Army. He also led the Chargers to partner with the Susan G. Komen Foundation in San Diego in honor of his wife Susie, who is a breast cancer survivor.
Spanos received the Harold Leventhal Community Service Award and the Ellis Island medal of Honor (16 years after his father received the award). He was inducted into the DeMolay International Alumni Hall of Fame and was presented the Community Champions Award along with his wife from the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum. In 2016, Spanos was ranked number 21 on the USA Today list of 100 most important people in the NFL. He was an honoree at the American Hellenic Council’s (AHC) Annual Awards Gala, which recognizes individuals from the Greek-American community.
Most notably, the Spanos Family Foundation has set the standard for donations to the Greek Orthodox community. Their donation of $10 million to the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine was “absolutely stunning” as was accurately described by other prominent individuals in our community. Spanos is also a member of the board of the Friends of St. Nicholas, a not-for-profit organization with the exclusive responsibility for the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Church and Shrine.
Spanos married his wife Susie in 1977. Even though Spanos moved the Chargers to Los Angeles from San Diego in 2017, he and his wife still maintained their house there until 2020. In June, the 10,000+ square foot mansion was put on the market for $18 million after the family had lived there for more than 20 years. The couple has two sons and two grandsons.
16. EDWARD ZANDER
$1.3 Billion (Wallmine)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Married, 2 children
Zander has earned the nickname ‘Fast Eddie’, given to him in reference to his Brooklyn roots. According to a Boston Globe article, he frequently demonstrated the “hustle of a street kid spoiling for a good fight,” Zander himself remarked, “I’m from New York, so I’m New York fast.”
Edward Zander is the son of Jewish immigrants from Greece and Poland. His father reportedly dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but instead settled for a job as a furrier in order to support his ill parents. Zander’s mother, blind with glaucoma, emigrated from Greece after her entire family was wiped out by Turkish nationalists in 1922.
Zander’s first career choice was electrical engineering, which he studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. After graduating in 1968, he moved to Boston to fill a position as an engineer at the defense supply firm Raytheon Company. However, Zander quickly learned that he was, as he described to the Boston Globe in a 2000 interview, a “lousy engineer.” After spending five years with Raytheon he accepted a position as a marketer with Data General Corporation, one of the pioneers of microcomputing. Two years later, he had earned his MBA at Boston University, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in Human Letters. His time with Data General proved successful, with the company’s sales increasing from $7 million in 1973, when he joined the company, to $500 million in 1982.
Zander then went on to become vice president of marketing at Apollo Computer and then eventually worked his way to chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems where he stayed until 2002. During his 15 years at Sun, he grew the company to $18 billion in revenue, established the company as number one in the server market, and built it into the pre-eminent supplier of network software infrastructure with Solaris and Java. In addition, Zander was responsible for developing the ‘dot in dot com’ campaign establishing Sun as a leader in Internet computing.
However, what Zander is probably best known for is being chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Motorola. On January 5, 2004, Zander was selected by the Motorola board of directors to succeed Chris Galvin who retired in September 2003, ending a three generation reign of his family at the head of the electronics giant. During Zander’s four-year tenure at the company, he made the RAZR the best-selling cell phone in history and reshaped Motorola’s image worldwide with the popular ‘Hello Moto’ campaign. He sharpened Motorola’s edge in technology innovation, delivered 12 consecutive quarters of revenue growth, streamlined the business to increase operating efficiencies worldwide, significantly improved the balance sheet, and acquired and divested businesses to strengthen the company’s competitive position. During his tenure, the company doubled its revenue and achieved double digit earnings for the first time in over a decade.
Most recently, Zander has been involved with two startups: GameOn Technologies (a San Francisco based conversational platform) and StoreONE (a storage system company designed for small and enterprise businesses).
Currently, Zander is a director of Seagate Technology, Netezza Corp., and NetSuite, as well as a member of several advisory boards of civic and philanthropic boards. He is also a member of the board of trustees at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a member of the Dean’s advisory Council of the School of Management at Boston University.
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. GEORGE YANCOPOULOS
$1.4 Billion (Forbes)
Columbia University; 4 children
Raising his fortune by an estimated additional $300M, Dr. George Yancopoulos continues to expand the value and relevance of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, aided by the company’s early pandemic response breakthrough treatments, as well as by established products. As early as February 7, 2020, the United States announced that it would work with Regeneron, where Yancopoulos serves as the President and Chief Scientific Officer, to develop an effective treatment for the new coronavirus strain. By March, Dr. Yancopoulos, in an exclusive interview with TNH, said that Regeneron was working on two approaches that could change the course of the pandemic and save a lot of lives. In May, the Hellenic Initiative launched a Digital Speakers Series with Dr. Yancopoulos to talk about the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. By June, Regeneron had announced that its first U.S. clinical trial of an antibody cocktail for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 was underway. One month later, Regeneron announced that it had been awarded a $450 million contract by the U.S. government to manufacture and supply REGN-COV2 (its investigational double antibody cocktail). And on September 29, Regeneron announced the first data from a descriptive analysis of a seamless Phase 1/2/3 trial of its investigational antibody cocktail REGN-COV2 showing it reduced viral load and the time to alleviate symptoms in non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19. REGN-COV2 also showed positive trends in reducing medical visits. The ongoing, randomized, double-blind trial measures the effect of adding REGN-COV2 to usual standard-of-care, compared to adding placebo to standard-of-care. When President Trump contracted the virus, he was given a high dose of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail. No one has had an easy year, but when we look at the amount of work and pressure that Dr. Yancopoulos has had to endure over the past 12 months, our lives may seem a bit easier.
Dr. Yancopoulos, 62, joined Regeneron Laboratories in 1989 as its Founding Scientist. Born and raised in New York, Yancopoulos hails from Kastoria. His grandfather, George Danis Yancopoulos was born in Kastoria before it was liberated from the Turks. “He escaped to Austria…taught himself German somehow, and remarkably got a degree in electrical engineering,” Yancopoulos says about his grandfather. His grandfather eventually returned to Greece and with his business partners built many of the first electrical power plants there.
Dr. Yancopoulos’ father eventually emigrated to America and pushed his children to get high paying jobs. As Yancopoulos became more interested in the sciences, his father started getting worried that he would become a scientist – a career he feared would not afford his son a good salary. However, when Yancopoulos was 16 years-old, his father gave him an article from The National Herald (he didn’t read the American papers, just the Greek one, Yancopoulos once told us) which was about a certain Dr. P. Roy Vagelos who was leaving Washington University to join Merck as head of Research and Development. Yancopoulos remembers his father saying: “If you are going to become a scientist, at least become like Roy Vagelos,” and George added, “we Greeks did not have many heroes growing up, but he gave me Roy as my role model.”
Yancopoulos went on to earn his MD and PhD degrees from Columbia University. He has authored more than 350 scientific manuscripts, and was the eleventh-most cited scientist in the world in the 1990s. In 1989, Yancopoulos went to Tarrytown, New York where he started working at Regeneron. Yancopoulos helped Regeneron’s worth skyrocket 2,240% between 2011 and 2016. In 2004, he was selected 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 eight FDA-approved drugs and foundational technologies, including the TRAP technology, VelociGene®, and VelocImmune®. Last year, Regeneron announced that the FRA approved EYLEA Injection to treat all stages of diabetic retinopathy – a disease affecting approximately eight million people. Early in February, Regeneron, under Yancopoulos’ direction, outperformed analysts’ expectations for its fourth quarter, nearly doubling its net profit to $2.23B. Though the company’s anti-COVID treatment has been found recently to be less effective against the Omicron variant, the therapy brought Regeneron $2.3B in sales, with treatments for eczema and Eylea eye drops contributing $1.77B and $2.45B, respectively.
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.
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). He was the first pharmaceutical research chief to become a billionaire. The money hasn’t gone to his head: he does his kids’ laundry and dresses in the worn Oxfords and khakis of an academic scientist, Forbes wrote. In an interview with Westchester Magazine, Yancopoulos’ daughter Nia described her dad: “He has always just been our weird, silly, always-there-for-us dad.” Yancopoulos is uncomfortable discussing his wealth but hopes that the very thought of it, generated by lifesaving drugs, might serve “as an inspiration to kids who (might) otherwise become hedge fund managers.”
Earlier this year, Yancopoulos was a central figure at the 31st Annual Leadership 100 Conference, where he was presented with the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Award for Excellence by Archbishop Elpidophoros.
14. TED LEONSIS
$1.4 BILLION (Forbes)
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, NY 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. Leonsis has said that all his father aspired for him to be was a grocery store manager.
Leonsis graduated from Lowell High School in 1973 and attended Georgetown University with the financial help of a businessman named Jim Shannon for whom Leonsis had worked for as a lawn mower. After graduating in 1977 (the first in his family to obtain a university education), he moved back to his parents’ home in Lowell.
In 1980, Leonsis started his own company, which grew quickly, and sold it to International Thompson for $60M one year later. Establishing himself as a pioneer of the Internet and new media, Leonsis participated in launches of the Apple MacIntosh, the IBM PC, and the Wang office automation. He has led four businesses that have grown at record rates: he built Wang WP (who developed the first word processor) from a $200 million to a $1 billion company with the largest female management team in the country. He was founder and CEO of Redgate Communications Corporation, considered the first new media marketing company. He built AOL into the first $1 billion interactive services company and the world’s biggest media company, helping to increase its membership from fewer than 800,000 to more than 8 million in a four-year span (1994-97). He retired from AOL in 2006 and currently serves as vice chairman emeritus. It has been said that few people have roots as deep in the computer industry, or as much knowledge and experience of its history and potential.
Leonsis is probably best known for his involvement in our nation’s capital’s sports world. He is the founder, chairman, principal owner, and CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment (MSE) (formed in 2010), which owns and operates the professional sports teams Washington Capitals (National Hockey League), Washington Wizards (National Basketball Association), Washington Mystics (Women’s National Basketball League), and the Capital One Arena in downtown Washington, D.C. (which houses a sportsbook, making it the first pro sports stadium in America with a full-service sports betting operation). The partnership also operates MedStar Capitals Iceplex (the Washington Capitals’ training facility) and the George Mason University EagleBank Arena. MSE also owns Monumental Sports Network, a first-of-its-kind regional sports network for digital, mobile and over-the-top platforms. Additionally, as part of a joint venture with the Washington, DC Mayor’s Office and Events DC, MSE unveiled a brand-new sports and entertainment facility in Southeast D.C. which opened in the Fall of 2018. The cutting-edge 4,200-seat venue and basketball facility includes a practice facility for the Wizards and serves as the Mystics home court. Laurene Powell Jobs, Apple visionary’s Steve Jobs’ widow, is the second largest shareholder of Monumental Sports, reportedly having acquired 20% of the company in a deal worth several hundreds million dollars.
Leonsis is also a co-founder and partner at Revolution Growth (a $1 billion set of investment funds) and founder/chairman of SnagFilms, a website that allows online audiences to find, watch, and share documentary films. He has produced award-winning documentaries including Nanking, which told the story of the 1937 invasion of Nanking, China by the Japanese army. It premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and won a Peabody Award and an Emmy Award in 2009. Leonsis has also authored a number of books including his most recent, The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Life and Work.
Leonsis has been named Washington’s Businessman of the Year, Washingtonian of the Year, one of the 20 most influential people in sports, and one of the top 10 entrepreneurs of the year. He sits on the board of directors of several leading companies ranging from American Express to Groupon and serves on the Board of Governors for the NBA and NHL, as well as on the Executive Committee of the NHL. Through the Leonsis Foundation, his sports teams, the MSE Foundation, and his family’s personal giving, Leonsis supports hundreds of charities each year. In 2015 he was named chairman of the board of DC-CAP (District of Columbia College Access Program), which is dedicated to encouraging and enabling DC public high school students to enroll in and graduate from college. Earlier this year, Leonsis’ charitable foundation made a $200,000 donation to the University of District Columbia’s sports-related fundraising drive.
Leonsis lives with his wife, Lynn, in Potomac, MD in a 20,000 square foot home that Franklin Roosevelt, and later, Joe Kennedy (the father of President John F. Kennedy), used to rent over the summer. They have a son, Zachary, and a daughter, Elle.
13. JAMES S. CHANOS
$1.5 BILLION (Celebrity Net Worth)
Yale University (Economics & Political Science); 4 children
Known as the ‘LeBron James of short selling,’ ‘Wall Street’s most notable bear,’ ‘Darth Vader of Wall Street,’ and even as
‘Catastrophe Capitalist,’ James S. Chanos himself, now 64, is certainly far from a catastrophe. This second generation Greek-American grew up in Milwaukee, WI, the son of Greek immigrants. His father owned a chain of dry cleaning stores in Milwaukee and his mother worked as an office manager at a steel company.
Following positions with Gilford Securities and Deutsche Bank, Chanos founded Kynikos Associates (in Greek, ‘kynikos’ means cynic) in 1985, and built it into the world’s largest exclusive short-selling hedge fund. Today, Chanos serves as president of Kynikos, which has offices in New York and London. The New York office employs 20 people that manage $1.5 billion in assets. He is renowned for predicting – and profiting from – the 2001 Enron Corporation collapse.
Chanos’ speculations catapulted him into billionaire status just a few years ago, where he has remained. Chanos has a long and distinguished history of making shrewd predictions, having identified several financial meltdowns such as Boston Chicken, Conesco, and Tyco International. In 2000, he started investigating Enron. One year later, predicting the company’s financial problems, he became Enron’s short seller. By the time the Enron scandal was public, Kynikos Associates profited greatly. Financial magazine Barron’s mentioned his early prediction of Enron’s fall as “the market call of the decade, if not the past fifty years.”
Nevertheless, 2020 has been quite a year for the short seller. Chanos took and closed a short position on Luckin Coffee Inc. (China’s answer to Starbucks). The stock dropped 70% in April after the company disclosed in a securities filing that its chief operating officer had fabricated 2019 sales by about $310 million. In an interview on CNBC, Chanos said, “how many times do investors have to be burned in these companies that are just too good to be true? Growing 40% to 50% a year, with all kinds of odd transactions with affiliates.” A few months later, in June of 2020, Chanos took and closed a short position on Wirecard AG. The stock dropped about 96% during the summer after the company’s auditor disclosed that the company was missing about $2.1 billion. Chanos also took and closed a short position on The Hertz Corporation. Chanos covered his short position prior to the Hertz bankruptcy in May when their shares were down more than 80% for the year. Recently it was reported that Chanos had taken a short position in DraftKings, the leading fantasy sports contest and sports betting company.
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; he served on the finance committee of then-presidential hopeful Joe Biden. In June, when a Financial Times officer asked Chanos about the prospect of higher taxes with a Biden administration, he responded, “I think it’s fair that rates of taxation on capital probably should go up, relative to rates of taxation on earned income. I know that makes me a communist on Wall Street but I’ve always felt that.”
Chanos is the president of the board of trustees of The Browning School, and serves as a trustee at The Nightingale-Bamford School and The New-York Historical Society. Chanos also teaches a course on the history of financial fraud at Yale University.
12. JAMIE DIMON
$1.7 BILLION (Forbes)
Tufts University (Psychology & Economics); Married, 3 children
With a $100M drop in estimated net worth, JP Morgan Chase chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon joins our lists top-10 for the second year in a row, though his personal fortune far understates his influence and relevance as the leader of America’s largest bank in terms of assets.
Born and raised in New York City with his older brother Peter and his fraternal twin Ted, Dimon’s family name was originally Papademetriou, but his grandfather, who emigrated to the United States from Smyrna, changed it to make it sound French.
Dimon’s grandfather worked as a busboy but then landed a job at Atlantic Bank of New York (a subsidiary of the National Bank of Greece). After working his way up to vice president, he left the bank and became a broker. He passed his knowledge of that business onto his son, Theodore (Dimon’s father) – who originally wanted to become a violinist. Dimon’s father and grandfather worked together for 19 years and Jamie joined them during the summers in their New York office. In a recent interview with CNBC, Dimon said he picked up some habits from his grandfather, like reading. “My grandfather was a fascinating guy: He spoke six languages, he walked miles a day, he read a lot,” Dimon said in the interview. Dimon’s grandfather was also “very ethical” and his parents were “moralistic,” which molded his view on ethics and “moral core,” he said. “They strongly believed in right and wrong. Telling the truth. If I didn’t treat someone properly, they would get very mad, including defending people being picked on,” he said. In another (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 Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He later majored in psychology and economics at Tufts University, and earned his MBA from Harvard University Business School where he met his future wife and mother of his three daughters, Judith Kent. Upon graduating in 1982, Sanford Weill convinced him to turn down offers from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and instead to join him as an assistant at American Express. Through a series of unprecedented mergers and acquisitions that ensued, they formed Citigroup, then the largest financial services conglomerate in the world. Weill was the one who made the deals, but Dimon was the ‘whiz kid’ who made the numbers work. Dimon left Citigroup in November 1998 due to an internal conflict with Weill.
Dimon moved on and became the CEO of Bank One. When JPMorgan Chase purchased Bank One in July 2004, Dimon became president and chief operating officer of the combined company of which he is now chairman and CEO.
Under his leadership, JPMorgan Chase introduced a new grant available to first-time homebuyers in 6,700 communities that the U.S. Census has identified as majority Black and Latinx residents, with Dimon stating that “systemic racism is a tragic part of America’s history. We can do more and do better to break down systems that have propagated racism and widespread economic inequality, especially for Black and Latinx people. It’s long past time that society addresses racial inequities in a more tangible, meaningful way.” The new grant is part of the bank’s $30 billion commitment to help address wealth inequality – an initiative that they started last October following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
At the start of 2022, after he had received no increase in pay for the previous year, JPMorgan raised Dimon’s annual pay by 9.5%, making for a total compensation of $34.5M for 2021. This includes an annual base salary of $1.5M and a performance-based incentive pay of $33M. Reuters noted that under Dimon, 66, “JPMorgan produced net income of $48.3 billion in 2021, up from $29.1 billion a year earlier, and a return on tangible common equity of 23%, up from 14%.” Recently, it has also become the first bank to open in the metaverse, setting up its shop in Decantraland’s Metajuku mall. An illuminated portrait of Dimon hangs in the bank’s virtual lounge.
He is also on the Board of Directors of Harvard Business School and the Board of Trustees of New York University School of Medicine. He is also a Board Member of the Business Roundtable, and a member of The Business Council.
In July 2014, Dimon said he had been diagnosed with throat cancer. By 2016, it appeared the cancer was in remission and he had a good long-term prognosis. In March 2020, Dimon underwent “emergency heart surgery.” The reason for the surgery was to repair an acute aortic dissection, a tear in the inner layer of the aorta, an artery that is the largest blood vessel in the body.According to JP Morgan, Dimon recovered well from his surgery.
11. JOHN P. CALAMOS, SR.
$1.8 BILLION (TNH)
GLOBAL ASSET MANAGEMENT
Illinois Institute of Technology (Economics); Married, 2 children
Jumping many spots on our list this year is John P. Calamos, Sr., 80, 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 continued to study books on finance and investing strategies. In 1977, he flexed his confidence and started his own company, taking out a $60,000 second mortgage on his house to help bankroll the endeavor. Calamos ended up taking the company public in 2004 under the NASDAQ ticker CLMS.
In 2016, Calamos stepped down as CEO (and was replaced by another fellow Greek and Chicagoean – John Koudounis) and now serves as the Chairman and Global CIO of the company. 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 New York, San Francisco, Milwaukee, 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.
In December 2021, Calamos Investments, managing assets worth over $40B, announced the launch of Calamos Global Sustainable Equities Fund.
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, along with his wife, Mae, established the John P. Calamos Foundation, which supports a number of scholarship initiatives in the Greek community. He and Mae also endowed Illinois Institute of Technology’s first endowed chair in philosophy. Since 2012, he has served as chairman of the board of directors of Chicago’s National Hellenic Museum, of which he is a major benefactor. He says of the museum: “we have built a national institution to honor our parents and grandparents, to honor our rich Hellenic history.” Calamos is also a member of the 13-person board, “The Friends of St. Nicholas,” which is overseeing the financing of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center.
Among his many awards, Calamos was honored by the Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology in 2018 and by the Washington ‘Oxi’ Day Foundation with the Michael Jaharis Service Award for his service during the Vietnam War and to the Greek-American community.
During this past year, Calamos was a speaker at the Panhellenic Exporters Association Virtual Forum where he and other distinguished panel members discussed what buyers and investors are looking for as well as at the10th Annual Capital Link CSR Forum on Economy & Society where he expressed his optimism for global equity markets despite the pandemic.
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