How Much Does It Cost To Buy An Old Freighter Success Lessons: What Greek Tycoon Aristotle Onassis’s Life Reveals

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Success Lessons: What Greek Tycoon Aristotle Onassis’s Life Reveals

Aristotle Onassis was born in 1906 in the Greek city of Smyrna (later occupied by Turkey). The few facts available about his childhood suggest that those years were quite difficult: he lost his mother when he was still a baby, and his father remarried a year and a half later. His relationship with his stepmother was extremely bad: they were in a state of continuous war, he considered her a usurper and refused to obey her. Also, his relationship with his father wasn’t much better. A wealthy wholesale merchant in Smyrna, he was a strict father who was feared by his son.

As a result of these problems, Onassis struggled in school. He didn’t like studying and constantly skipped class. He was also extremely disruptive and annoyed his classmates. As a result, he was expelled from every school he attended. In those circumstances, it was not surprising that Onassis never finished his studies. When in 1922 he took the final exams required to obtain his baccalaureate degree, he failed – and never tried again.

In the same year, the situation became even more difficult for him: the Turks invaded Onassis’s city of Smyrna after defeating the Greek army. The young Onassis – then 16 years old – was caught up, as he would often recall later, in the disaster that followed. The Turkish army swept the city from one side to the other for many days, killing, looting and burning. Smyrna was totally destroyed.

Onassis’ father gathered his family in his house when the Turks entered the city and closed doors and windows. Terrified, they saw the destruction through cracks in the walls. On the fifth day, the Turks entered the house and arrested the father, leaving the young Onassis as the only male. The next day, Onassis took responsibility for rescuing his family. He went out into the chaotic streets of Smyrna, and there by chance he met the American vice consul. With his intervention, the Onassis family was immediately transferred in a small boat to the nearby Greek island of Lesvos. Three weeks later, the Onassis family arrived in the Greek port of Piraeus – as war refugees – in a miserable state.

Desperate, Onassis had the idea of ​​emigrating to the United States. But he couldn’t get a visa, so as a second option he decided on Argentina. Unfortunately his father was vehemently opposed, so much so that he refused even to give him the money for the tickets. Onassis was forced to ask for a loan from some of his friends. He obtained an insignificant amount, and with it he embarked on a risky adventure. In August 1923 he left the Greek port of Piraeus, arriving a month later in Buenos Aires. I was only 17 years old, carrying a broken suitcase and no money.

His first priority was, of course, to find a job. He soon realized it wasn’t going to be easy. To stay alive, he had to wash dishes in restaurants and transport bricks to construction sites. Finally, in March 1924 he found work at the Buenos Aires Telephone Company as an electrician. This was not the Argentina Onassis had dreamed of.

But in 1925, Onassis’s fortunes changed. As soon as he found a decent job, his next step was to reach an agreement with his father so that he could start selling Greek tobacco in Argentina. In early 1925 he began corresponding with his father and before long convinced his father to send him samples of high quality Greek tobacco. With the samples in hand, Onassis began visiting cigarette manufacturers in Argentina to try to sell them tobacco. He quickly received his first order, for $10,000. Because the quality of the tobacco was excellent, a second order was soon placed, for $50,000. Orders came faster and faster. By May 1925 he had managed to put $25,000 in the bank, not bad for someone who had recently been penniless. And between 1930 and 1931 he expanded the business to Cuba and Brazil.

In the fall of 1932, Onassis gathered all his savings – about $600,000 – and sailed to London, the maritime capital of the world, to buy ships. Due to the economic downturn of 1929-1932, ship prices had fallen sharply. A ten-year-old freighter, which had cost $1 million to build in 1920, could now be had for $20,000. It didn’t take long for Onassis to find what he was looking for: a whole fleet of ten such ships were for sale in Saint Lawrence in Canada. In the winter of the same year, they found him in Sant Llorenç. After brief negotiations, he bought six of these boats in 1933, for $20,000 each.

Onassis’ career as a shipbuilder had begun.

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