Aristotle Onassis Biography

Aristotle Onassis, a man who went from rags to riches, became one of the world’s wealthiest individuals. Despite a privileged upbringing, his family lost everything due to unfortunate events. Undeterred, Onassis started from scratch and eventually built a business empire, becoming a millionaire and a renowned shipping magnate. His life was marked by his vast business ventures, immense wealth, and tumultuous romantic relationships. To delve deeper into his fascinating journey, continue reading.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Aristotle Socrates Onassis
  • Died At Age: 69
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Athina Livanos (m. 1946-1960) Jacqueline Lee Bouvier
    • Father: Socrates
    • Mother: Penelope Dologu
    • Siblings: Artemis Garoufalid, Kalliroe (half-sister), Merope (half-sister)
    • Children: Alexander, Christina
  • Quotes By Aristotle Onassis
  • Billionaires
  • Height: 5’5″ (165 cm), 5’5″ Males
  • Died on: March 15, 1975
  • Place of death: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
  • Cause of Death: Respiratory Failure: Complication Of The Myasthenia Gravis
  • Founder/Co-Founder: Olympic Maritime and Olympic Tourist, Olympic Airways and Air Navigation

Childhood & Early Life

Aristotle Onassis was born to Socrates and Penelope Dologu in Karatass, a suburb of Smyra. He was the only son of the couple and had a sister named Artemis. He also had two half-sisters. Onassis grew up in a financially secure household and had the privilege of attending prestigious schools. By the age of 16, he had mastered four languages and graduated from the local Evangelical Greek School.


After the invasion of Greece by Turkey and the Great Fire of Smyra, Onassis left for Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1923. He found a job as a telephone engineer at the British United River Plate Telephone Company. It was during this time that he started eavesdropping on important business calls and used the information to make his own deals. He quickly secured big deals and made a lot of money.

While overhearing a conversation, Onassis got the idea to revive his father’s tobacco business. He imported tobacco from Turkey and started manufacturing his own brand of cigarettes when he failed to secure a deal for his tobacco. The business thrived and he gained a reputation and financial success. He then turned his attention to the shipping industry, buying ships at a time when others were leaving the business. He quickly expanded his fleet.

In 1928, Onassis made a trade agreement with Greece and became involved in illegitimate activities such as smuggling and bribing. He even sabotaged his competitors and fraudulently used the name of established cigarette companies. Despite a setback in 1929 due to a tax increase on imported goods, Onassis bribed Greek ministers to gain an exemption from tax. He repeated this feat in 1931.

From 1950 to 1956, Onassis found success whaling off the Peruvian coast. He made a profit of $4.5 million in his first deal and eventually sold the venture to a Japanese whaling company for $8.5 million. In 1957, he entered the airline business and took over the failing Greek national airline, turning it into a profitable private business called Olympic Airways. He secured profitable deals with big oil companies and every business deal turned profitable for him.

Within a short span of time, Onassis became a global business magnate. In addition to his tobacco and shipping ventures, he held stocks in major oil companies, controlled over ninety-five multinational businesses, had gold processing plants, and made investments in Latin America and Brazil. He owned multiple properties, including apartments, buildings, and a castle, and had accounts in over 200 banks. He also owned islands such as Scorpios and Sparta.

Personal Life & Legacy

Onassis was known for his relationships with famous women around the world. He married Athina Livanos, the daughter of a shipping magnate, in 1946. They had two children but divorced in 1960 due to Onassis’ infidelity and his relationship with singer Maria Callas. He later befriended and married Jackie Kennedy, the widow of President John F. Kennedy, in 1968.

In 1973, tragedy struck when Onassis’ son from his first marriage died in a plane crash. This devastated him. Two years later, Onassis passed away on March 15, 1975, due to respiratory failure caused by myasthenia gravis. He was buried on his island near his son Alexander.


Onassis ended his relationship with opera singer Maria Callas to marry Jackie Kennedy, the widow of President John F. Kennedy.

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