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Aristotle Onassis

(1906—1975) Greek shipping magnate and international businessman


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(1906–1975)

Greek shipping magnate who married the widow of President> Kennedy.

Onassis was born in Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey, the son of a Greek tobacco merchant. In 1922 the family fled from Turkish hostility in the region to Athens. The young Onassis decided to try his luck in South America and in 1923 arrived in Buenos Aires with just $60. His first job was as a telephone operator on a nightshift. Meanwhile, during the daytime, he built up his own tobacco importing business and in due course started to manufacture cigarettes. In 1928 he negotiated a trade treaty with Argentina on behalf of the Greek government. Extending his business into other commodities, Onassis was reckoned to be a dollar millionaire by the age of twenty-five. In 1932, in the depths of the economic recession, he bought six Canadian freighters at a bargain price and subsequently, as the international freight market picked up, put them into service. His fleet grew steadily and in the 1950s he invested heavily in oil tankers and bulk carriers to make it one of the world's largest privately owned merchant fleets and Onassis one of the world's wealthiest individuals. He disposed of his whaling fleet to the Japanese in 1956, the year in which Onassis was awarded the contract to operate the Greek national airline. Olympic Airways started in 1957.

With his 1800-ton yacht, Christina, and numerous houses throughout the world, Onassis entertained many of the world's leaders, including Winston Churchill. His first marriage was dissolved in 1960 and, after a much-reported friendship with the opera singer Maria Callas, he married Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (1929–94), the widow of John F. Kennedy, in 1968.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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