Yiannis Latsis (1910–2003), also known as John Spyridon Latsis, was a Greek shipping multi-billionaire tycoon notable for his great wealth, influential friends, and charitable activities.
Latsis was born in Katakolo — a fishing village in the Elis — (although his origins are in Epirus), the seventh of 21 children, the son of Spiro Latsis and Aphrodite Efthimiou. He was educated at the Pyrgos School of Commerce and the School for Merchant Navy Captains.
He started as a deckhand, eventually working his way up to ship's captain in the merchant marine. He bought his first cargo vessel in 1938 and by the 1960s, owned a fleet of ships. In the late 1960s, he diversified his business to include oil – establishing Petrola — and construction, building (among other things) oil refineries in Greece and Saudi Arabia, before gradually expanding into banking and financial services. His European Financial Group owns banks in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Monaco, the Channel Islands and Greece.
In 1990, he hosted the G7 Economic Conference at Bridgewater House, Westminster, London. He was a close friend of Charles, Prince of Wales, twice loaning him the use of his yacht Alexandros, firstly in 1991 for a second honeymoon with the Princess of Wales, and secondly in 2002 for a cruise with Camilla Parker-Bowles. Others to whom he lent the ship included former President George H. W. Bush, Colin Powell, and Marlon Brando. He also maintained close ties with the Saudi royal family.
The Latsis commercial empire has been closely involved with German firm Hochtief in both constructing and managing Spata airport. Through Hellenic Petroleum, one of Greece's largest oil companies – in which another partner is the Russian oil giant LUKoil – it holds the contract for all fuel supplies to the airport, through an EU-funded pipeline built by a Latsis engineering company. Hellenic Petroleum, according to its own accounts, in 2000, paid $912 million to acquire a 34 percent interest in the Athens Airport Fuel Pipeline Company.
A Latsis company also has a 50 percent stake in the huge contract for running most of the airport's "ground-handling" services – almost everything except control of the aircraft themselves.
Latsis's development arm, Lamda, is a partner with Hochtief in a series of vast, part-EU funded motorway projects across Greece, as part of the "Trans European Network". And between 1999 and 2004, during the time when Spata airport was completed, the commission last week revealed that the giant EFG Eurobank Ergasias banking group, controlled by Latsis family interests, held an exclusive contract to handle all EU structural funds coming to Greece, totalling €28 billion.
His charitable works began with the establishment of the Latsis Scholarships Institute in 1970 and also included the provision of aid to earthquake victims and the creation of the Latsis Foundation. Two years after his passing in 2003, his immediate family founded the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation in his memory, that undertook the activity of the aforementioned scholarship fund and all the philanthropic work of the family.
Latsis married Erietta Tsoukala. They had three children: Spiros, Marianna and Margarita. Spiros is a trustee of the Friends of Europe, an EU-wide lobbying organisation for greater political integration. His grandson Paris Latsis (son of Marianna) was the former fiancé of Paris Hilton.