Stavros Niarchos was a multi-billionaire Greek shipping tycoon and rival of Aristotle Onassis. Propelled by the crisis in Suez and an increasing demand for oil in the 50s, he and rival Aristotle Onassis became giants in global petroleum shipping.
Stavros Niarchos was born in Athens in 1909. He was born into a rich family who had moved back from America to Greece just months before he was born. Niarchos studied law at the Athens University and he then joined the family family grain business, working with the mills. When he realized that the business could become more profitable if they owned their own ships, Niarchos’ fate transformed. This idea was to spark the beginnings of a shipping empire which at some point operated more than 80 tankers. Alongside this fleet, Niarchos also developed an impressive modern art portfolio and owned racehorses.
During World War II Niarchos was a naval officer for Greece. Part of the trade fleet he had developed with his uncle was destroyed during WWII however, right after the war was over he used about two million dollars in insurance settlement to build a new fleet. His most famous asset was the yacht Atlantis, currently known as Issham Al Baher after having been gifted to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
After the war Niarchos founded Niarchos Ltd, an international shipping company that at one time operated more than 80 tankers worldwide. He and Aristotle Onassis were great shipping rivals who both claimed to own the largest tanker in the world.
Luck played a huge role in Niarchos’ fortunes. The Suez Canal Crisis of 1956 created a huge demand for large-tonnage ships, the type of ships Niarchos owned. Business flourished and he became a billionaire.