Aleko Goulan­dris

Scion of a Greek ship­ping fam­ily who de­voted his later life to artis­tic and phil­an­thropic projects

The Daily Telegraph - - Obituaries -

ALEXANDROS “ALEKO” GOULAN­DRIS, who has died aged 90, was a scion of a cel­e­brated Greek ship­ping dy­nasty and a noted but very pri­vate art col­lec­tor and phi­lan­thropist.

Na­tives of An­dros, the north­ern­most is­land of the Cy­clades, the Goulan­drises have been shipown­ers and masters since the 18th cen­tury. Aleko’s grand­fa­ther Ioan­nis (1840-1927) bought his first steamship in 1910, and be­fore the Sec­ond World War Ioan­nis’s five sons built up a fleet which made theirs one of the most im­por­tant names in Greek ship­ping, eclipsed only by that of the Ku­lukundis fam­ily.

In the im­me­di­ate post-war years, the orig­i­nal Goulan­dris Bros busi­ness frac­tured into sev­eral parts. In 1953 Ioan­nis’s fourth son Niko­laos es­tab­lished his own com­pany, NJ Goulan­dris, in Lon­don and Athens, with the help of his three sons: the el­dest John, and Aleko and Leonidas who were twins. Ini­tially they owned and man­aged “Lib­erty” ships – cargo ves­sels mass-pro­duced in the US dur­ing the war – but they swiftly em­barked on a new-build­ing pro­gramme in Ja­panese ship­yards.

After Niko­laos’s death in 1957, his sons con­tin­ued to de­velop the fleet. At its zenith, NJ Goulan­dris op­er­ated more than 40 ships, in­clud­ing su­per­tankers and bulk car­ri­ers, all sail­ing un­der the Greek flag, and also made ma­jor in­vest­ments in ship re­pair yards. Though the fleet was re­duced in the de­pres­sion of world trade of the early 1980s, the busi­ness re­mained a sig­nif­i­cant and re­spected name in the ship­ping world.

After re­tir­ing from ac­tive man­age­ment, Aleko Goulan­dris spent his sum­mers in the Greek re­sort of Porto Heli and his win­ters in the ex­clu­sive Swiss vil­lage of Gs­taad – where he was a neigh­bour and close friend of Taki Theodor­a­cop­u­los, the High Life cor­re­spon­dent of The Spec­ta­tor. For many years the two spoke to each other by tele­phone at 10am ev­ery morn­ing with­out fail, and lunched to­gether – with other old friends, some­times in­clud­ing ex-king Con­stan­tine of Greece – once a week.

Goulan­dris dis­liked media at­ten­tion, and could rarely be per­suaded to talk about him­self. But he at­tracted at­ten­tion in 2014 when he was named as the seller, for $101 mil­lion at Sotheby’s in New York, of one of only six cast­ings of Gi­a­cometti’s Char­iot,a 1951 sculp­ture in painted bronze of an elon­gated god­dess-fig­ure rid­ing a wheeled char­iot. He had bought the piece in 1972 for $375,000, though “you could have bought a Fifth Av­enue pen­t­house for much less” at the time, as he put it. He was also quoted as say­ing drily that the sale price (paid by a New York hedge fund man­ager) was “too lit­tle” re­turn for his years of own­er­ship.

Alexandros Niko­laos Goulan­dris and his twin Leonidas were born on March 5 1927. Dur­ing vi­o­lent hos­til­i­ties be­tween com­mu­nist re­sis­tance groups and of­fi­cial Greek forces sup­ported by the Bri­tish amid the ru­ins of Athens in the harsh win­ter of 1944-45, the young twins re­ported for duty on the gov­ern­ment side and fought in hastily dug trenches along­side griz­zled, half-starved vet­er­ans – who looked askance when the boys’ mother ar­rived with cakes to sus­tain them.

Their post-war years were more sybaritic. Taki, then only nine, was first be­friended by them in an Athe­nian re­sort ho­tel in 1945, and hooked up with them again in Cannes in the idyl­lic sum­mer of 1952, when they in­tro­duced him to “all the night­clubs of the time – Maxim’s in Juan-les-pins, and Le Vieux Colom­bier, where Sid­ney Bechet played his lungs out ev­ery night” – as well as to their beau­ti­ful Amer­i­can girl­friends.

Leonidas, who was a gifted painter, died in 2009. The poet Grey Gowrie, a friend of both twins, wrote a lament for Leonidas, “The An­dri­ans”, which he ded­i­cated to Aleko. It spoke of their youth in war-torn Athens, of their “great sea slug tankers [that] oil all the wheels of our world by crawl­ing over the seven seas”, and of their later pas­sions for art: “Aleko, think of the paint­ings! Pi­cas­sos, Pol­locks, Ba­cons, world-shrink­ing Gi­a­comet­tis … In­es­timable bea­cons of val­ue­less value, may they sus­tain you.”

Aleko Goulan­dris’s last phil­an­thropic project, re­flect­ing his other pas­sion for mar­itime his­tory, was the restora­tion of the Ge­or­gios Avey­rof, a cruiser built for the Royal Hel­lenic Navy in 1910 and lat­terly used as a float­ing mu­seum.

His beloved wife Marietta died ear­lier this year. He is sur­vived by their daugh­ters, Maria-lula and Alexan­dra. A third daugh­ter, Vi­olanta, pre­de­ceased both par­ents, who re­stored the his­toric light­house of Tourli­tis, off An­dros, in her mem­ory.

Alexandros “Aleko” Goulan­dris, born March 5 1927, died May 25 2017

Aleko Goulan­dris: after re­tir­ing he spent his sum­mers in Porto Heli and his win­ters in Gs­taad

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