To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
A landmark in the Vagliano’s shipping business, was the creation of a hybrid ship management office in London. The multinational dimension of their managing-agency operations made their London office a national bureau of sorts—a conduit enabling Greek shipowners to engage in international business. Essentially, this was a shipping company and agency for the national Greek fleet. Their London office created in 1858 provided the first model of a modern ship-management firm and became the driving force behind the globalization of both Greek-owned shipping and bulk shipping all over the world. The career of Aristotle Onassis was one of the results of the Vaglianos’ innovations. Onassis started his business from one of the twenty London offices that were formed after the death of Panaghi Vagliano. The Vagliano brothers pioneered the transition of Greek-owned shipping from sail to steam. They were prime movers in adopting steamships, launching an unprecedented programme of new ship building in British yards in the late 1870s to early 1880s.
From 1946 to 1975, Aristotle Onassis consolidated his position as a charismatic shipping tycoon and international businessman. During this period, he pioneered what would become the basic structure of the global shipping group. Between 1946 and 1975, he purchased 140 vessels of about 3.7 million grt and received more than two hundred and fifty million dollars of finance (in current prices) for these purchases from American banks. This chapter analyzes how he built his shipping business Empire, examining his sale and purchase (S&P) methods and showing how he constructed his fleet by gathering capital resources, and how he managed his resources and exploited the choices given. Onassis confronted both opportunity and crisis as he built his fleet from Liberty ships, and tankers despite the lack of any support from the Greek shipping milieu to whom he channelled his anger through a long memorandum called the Onassiad”. He expanded his business Empire through various conflicts. His most notorious venture in oil was through an agreement with Saudi Arabia that brought him into direct confrontation with the oil majors, the US government and the European and American shipping world.
This chapter covers his business during the first period of his entrepreneurial activity, from 1924 to 1946, when he set up his trading and tramp shipping company. During these first 22 years, he was unknown to the public. The aim is to investigate Onassis’s activities in America as well as in Europe and to reveal the significance of the beginnings of his business. During this period Onassis advanced his career within the Greek maritime tradition established by the Vaglianos, but also led the way to break this tradition, re-invent it, and advance it further. He created the foundations of his Empire, with Buenos Aires as the basis of his entrepreneurial activities. In the 1920s based on his family business know-how and network he collaborated with his father and uncle in Greece, and with his first cousins in Argentina, to found a sound business of tobacco imports. In the 1930s, Onassis devoted himself into learning about Greek and Norwegian shipping methods and techniques and was able to expand and re-invent them. By 1940, he had made the choices that marked his path to global shipping: specialization in tanker shipping, offshore companies and flags of convenience
Aristotle Onassis was among the first in the shipping business to take advantage of global sourcing, and was instrumental in creating the global shipping business that reinvented the European maritime tradition. He was a prime mover after World War II exclusively in instituting offshore companies, with their flags of convenience, in the rapidly globalizing shipping industry. In the 1950s it was mainly the Greeks that used them; today two thirds of the world fleet flies a flag of convenience. In this way Onassis was a pioneer global entrepreneur. He conducted his business in the 1940s in ways that anticipated modern business practices, not least its globalization. Onassis innovated on four levels. First, he pioneered the modern model of ownership and management of global shipping companies, based on offshore companies, flags of convenience, and multiple holding companies. Second, he was the one to first open the United States financial markets to ship finance. Third, by building tankers in American, European and Asian shipyards, he contributed to the evolution of ship technology and gigantism. And fourth, he reinvented Greek island maritime culture into a corporate shipping culture.
Exactly seventy years after Mari Vagliano was accused of conspiracy to defraud the Russian Imperial state, Aristotle Onassis was accused of conspiracy to defraud the United States Government. Comparing the two cases is enlightening: both of these international businessmen had to surpass a variety of hurdles on their way to revolutionizing the global shipping business. It all started in late 1950 when CIA agents, backed by photographic evidence revealed that New York based Greek shipping tycoons were carrying cargoes on American-built ships not only for the United States and its allies, but also for its enemies, North Korea and China. The FBI launched its investigation, the government took aggressive tactics that resulted in ship forfeitures arrest warrants in the US ports while there was a worldwide boycott on Onassis ships and attack to his whaling fleet. From 1954-1956, Onassis and the other Greek shipowners took part in lengthy negotiations, reaching final settlements with the US government. The case is indicative of how national interests try to restrict global economic activities, using foreign businessmen as scapegoats for their internal political and economic problems.
This book is about the creation of global bulk shipping by the Greeks. It narrates the transformation of the island shipping companies of the Ionian and Aegean seas into international trading companies, then London shipping and ship-management offices, and finally to global shipping groups. The story unfolds through the paradigms of two main Greek shipping firms, that of the Vagliano Brothers whose business life spans from the 1820s to 1900s and that of Onassis from the 1920s to the 1970s. It indicates how the Vagliano and Onassis enterprises followed and reinvented, at the same time, the evolution of Greek shipping and how their innovations led to the creation of global shipping. It was in large part due to their pioneering activities that at the turn of the 21st century, Greek shipowners still own the largest fleet in the world. Greeks, who carried with them the European maritime tradition, transcended the local, and connected the local and regional with the international and global. In the twentieth century, they evolved as agents of globalisation following but also reinventing shipping practices on a global scale, yet retaining locally-based maritime traditions.
The three Vaglianos reached their apogee as an international trading company during the 1860s-1880s. It is during this time that they opened the path of the Greeks to global shipping, and made maritime and commercial transactions on an equal basis with the world’s best; in 1881, in London they had a turnover of about £8 million sterling when Schröders had a turnover of £4 million and Rothschild’s £12 million. This chapter analyzes the functioning of their international trading house in trade, finance, and shipping. During the 1850s-1880s, the Vaglianos became the leading international trading house of the Greek entrepreneurial network. In 1858, following the tremendous profits the House enjoyed after the Crimean War, Panagi Vagliano went to the City of London, a move that proved to be decisive. Their activities in banking and particularly the legal confrontation Vagliano vs. the Bank of England illustrates the importance of the Vagliano Brothers in the City of London and its institutions, and investigates the dynamic interrelationship between the foreign City merchant bankers and the development of financial institutions like the bill of exchange.
The unique success of the Greeks was that they created the global shipping business while still retaining the traditional family character that had characterized Greek shipping. What happened to the Vagliano and Onassis businesses after their deaths? They both left public benefit foundations and a great legacy in Greek shipping. Their main contribution was in developing the institution of the shipping firm. The element that characterised them was innovation in management and in the creation of new institutional framework in shipping business at critical moments of transition of the Greek shipping business. The Vaglianos invented the “London shipping office,” a hybrid form of shipowning and ship-management office that led Greek shipping firms into the twentieth century. Onassis pioneered the modern model of the global shipping company, with the use of multiple offshore companies, flags of convenience and management from many locations. The stories of the two businesses indicate the use of the local to reach the global, of how local European maritime culture has made the world trade function.