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Stelios Chatziioannou: Every crisis creates opportunities

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Stelios Chatziioannou: Every crisis creates opportunities

Cypriot businessman Stelios Hatziioannou predicts difficult days for the Cypriot economy due to the impact that tourism is receiving due to a pandemic. In an interview with the insider, he expressed strong concern about the course of the Cyprus problem and disagreed with the closure of the roadblocks. Mr. Hatziioannou also spoke to us about the course of easy jet, the future of aviation, Brexit and his charity work.

In the communication we had with Sir Stelios Hatziioannou, we first asked him to tell us about the degree to which the viability of the airlines is affected due to the Covid 19 pandemic, talking about a huge financial blow. “Unfortunately all the travel and tourism companies have been hit hard by the spread of the covid-19 pandemic as people have stopped traveling,” he said.

Mr. Hatziioannou had in recent months expressed strong complaints as the founder and major shareholder of Easy Jet for the handling of the company's Board of Directors. In fact, in his public speeches he had spoken about an unnecessary purchase of 107 Airbus. We asked him to tell us if he still has these positions today. “In my opinion, those who manage easyJet today are acting in the interest of Airbus, which is the supplier of the aircraft, and not in favor of the company's shareholders. I therefore believe that the pressure I exerted as an “activist shareholder” had an effect, since after the public outcry, Airbus was finally given a smaller amount than they would have given without the outcry. In addition, five of them, which I can not name, have already left easyJet, since I took action “, he underlined.


Following his statements, Mr. Hatziioannou, after emphasizing that the coronavirus crisis has hit the companies dealing with the tourism industry more, added that every crisis also creates opportunities. “There are opportunities to buy assets, at historically low prices, if of course someone has the cash to make these moves,” he said. On the subject of Brexit, we asked him to tell us about the actions he took to safeguard the interests of his companies, expressing the view that the pandemic overshadowed the magnitude of the problem. “I believe that at this stage Brexit is the smallest of the problems we have to face. “Because anyway, all the borders remain closed, due to the spread of the pandemic.” In the ongoing US-China economic war if he considers himself a winner, he politely replied that he did not want to comment.


He appeared pessimistic about the future of the Cypriot economy. “I would not say that I am really an expert in the Cypriot economy. However, it is obvious that difficult days will come, due to its great dependence on tourism, which has been hit by the pandemic.


At this stage, for his own reasons, he prefers to leave his papers closed in relation to his next investment plans in Cyprus and abroad. However, he emphasizes education, which is his last business venture. Specifically, together with his old classmate at the Douka schools, Dr. Konstantinos Kyritsis, created the online platform easystudies.gr, which they aspire to turn into a booking.com equivalent, for the search for studies. Through the page with a simple visit, prospective students can be informed about the prospects offered by studies in different countries of the world.

Technology is a sector based on recent statements that it considers to be of interest and could invest directly (as it has already invested indirectly in Silicon Valley-based companies). In Cyprus, he had made statements about a year ago about his thoughts on a new Easy Hotel in Nicosia, a project that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, has been refrigerated for the time being.


We then asked him to comment on how he felt as a Cypriot living and working abroad, how he felt when he watched Al Jazeera's documentary about Cyprus and what he thought the country should focus on after its abolition. Cypriot investment program. He answered us politely for an understandable reason that he would not like to make any comment, although it was clear that he had a lot to say.

Stelios Chatziioannou: Every crisis creates opportunities


On the contrary, he had a lot to say about the Cyprus issue, clearly expressing his regret that today he is at a dead end. “It's very sad at first, when the first thing a politician does to stop the pandemic is to close the roadblocks, putting a brake on the free movement of people. The fact that there are now huge difficulties for the movement of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots from the South to the North and vice versa, will certainly lead to an even greater deterioration of relations between the two communities. A tangible example is the fact that in 2020 we did not manage to hold the Bicommunal Awards and it seems that we will not be able to organize them in 2021 either. Under these circumstances we decided to direct our charitable contribution to Cyprus and other countries, to “Nursing staff who are the first line people, as a thank you, who put themselves in danger in order to save other fellow human beings”, he underlined.


We left as a last, but not the last part of our interview the charity work and its contribution to society in general, for which he sent us the annual report of the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation. The data, however, clearly show that it is an issue that concerns him intensely and it is not just a coincidence that he spends much of his day on the activities of the foundation (about 1/3 of the working hours). Sir Stelios supports a wide range of charitable activities in Greece, Cyprus, the United Kingdom and Monaco.

We specifically chose to present the actions he took in 2020 in Cyprus, which, however, did not include, as the Bicommunal Awards explained to us.

Stelios Chatziioannou: Every crisis creates opportunities


May 6, 2020: As a Foundation we have chosen to say in practice a big “thank you” to the nursing staff of 6 Public Hospitals in Cyprus, through the offer of gift certificates from the Alpha Mega supermarkets worth € 100,000 to 1,000 people who were on the front lines of the battle with the pandemic COVID19.

December 8, 2020: As a Foundation we have chosen to say in practice a big “thank you” to the medical, nursing and administrative staff of Limassol Hospital, through the offer of gift vouchers worth € 40 each from the Alpha Mega supermarkets worth € 52,000 to 1,300 people who are the medical personnel on the front lines of the COVID19 pandemic.


The “Food from the Heart” initiative started about 8 years ago in Cyprus and Athens with the aim of supporting our less privileged fellow human beings. Since then, they have offered 24 million snacks, and now receive about 300,000 visits each month from the 12 distribution centers, 7 in Athens and Piraeus and 5 in Cyprus. From the beginning of the program, “Food from the Heart” offers a free snack and a smile from the heart to people who really need it without any racial, religious or social discrimination. The food offer consists of 2 snacks per guest per day, produced by well-known food industries (indicative and not limited to wafers, croissants, buns, cookies) which have a retail price of about 1 euro each. The annual cost for this program exceeds € 1 million.


Stelios, as he likes to be called, is best known for creating easyJet in 1995 when he was just 28 years old: The low-cost airline that has revolutionized European air travel over the past 25 years now has more than 100 million passengers each year. with a fleet of approximately 350 Airbus aircraft flying to more than 30 countries. In 2000 EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) was listed on the UK Stock Exchange to further fund its growth, but Stelios and his family are still the largest shareholders with 1/3 of the total. Stelios managed to adopt a dividend policy from the company that pays 50% of the profits as a dividend to the shareholders.

A strategic decision taken during the listing of easyJet meant that the ownership of the easy brand remained with EasyGroup, based in London and with offices in Athens, Nicosia and Monaco. Today, easyGroup now enjoys a steady income from the licensing of easy brands by many companies, including, of course, the airline. Thus, every time someone buys an easyJet ticket, easyGroup charges 0.25% of the ticket price for the use of the signal. Since 1995, the easy brand family has been adopted by companies with a variety of activities. They all offer consumers “more value for less money”. An example is easyHotel.com, which has been listed on the UK stock exchange since 2014 in which easyGroup holds 28% of the shares. Other easy brands include: www.easyBus.com, www.easyCar.com, www.easyFly.co.uk, www.easyHub.com, www.easyMoney.com, www.easyProperty.com, www.easy.Coffee, www.easyGym.com, www.easyStorage.com, www.easyFerry.com and many more supported by more than 1000 registered trademarks. Stelios is always looking for carefully selected partners and entrepreneurs with whom he jointly expands the family of easy brands. EasyGroup also has a strict legal policy to stop trademark theft.


Stelios started “giving back to society” when he reached the age of 40 and since then he has formalized his charitable contribution by creating the Stelios Chatziioannou Charitable Foundation (www.stelios.org, www.steliosfoundation.gr), to which he now dedicates about a third of his time. The foundation supports a wide range of charitable activities, mainly in the countries where Stelios has lived and worked, namely Greece, Cyprus, the United Kingdom, and Monaco. The program “Food from the Heart” is supported by over 300,000 people every month in Greece and Cyprus since 2013 https://steliosfoundation.gr/faghto-apo-kardias. In Cyprus, the Foundation has been providing € 500,000 in cash annually since 2008 to Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots working together for lasting peace on the island https://steliosfoundation.com.cy/peace-cyprus-bicommunal -awards /. Every year, the Foundation provides scholarships – having supported to date more than 250 students (mainly from Greece and Cyprus) – to the three educational institutions from which Stelios graduated, ie to the Douka schools in Athens www.doukas.gr, London School of Economics and the Cass Business School of the City University in London. Other good causes are supported by regular donations to non-profit organizations (NGOs), such as the environmental charity www.wwf.org which is also supported by the Prince Albert II Charitable Foundation of Monaco. (www.fpa2.org). Some of the NGOs supported by the Stelios Foundation in Greece are Together for the Child, The Child's Smile, ELEPAP, Arcturus, Make a Wish Greece, the Greek Red Cross, UNHCR Greece and many others. In 2018, after the deadly fires in Mati, Attica, he gave from € 5000 to the closest relative of each deceased, with the total amount of the donation reaching € 505,000.

In May 2017, Stelios became a member of the Giving Pledge initiative team, pledging to donate half of his fortune to his foundation through his will, so that the Foundation can be self-financed in perpetuity. The Giving Pledge initiative was started in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet.


Stelios was born on February 14, 1967 in Athens, the son of the late Greek Cypriot shipowner, Louka Hatziioannou. Stelios began his business career with his father at Troodos Shipping in Piraeus, and worked there until the age of 25, when he received his first financial support from his father and founded his own tanker company, Stelmar. The company was listed on www.NYSE.com in 2001 and sold to a competitor in 2005 for about US $ 1.3 billion.


In 2006, at the age of 39, Stelios was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to entrepreneurship. Since 2009 he has been the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus in the Principality of Monaco – where he resides most of the time. In 2016, Stelios founded www.Gustaviayachtclub.org and is the President of the St.Barts Maritime Club in the Caribbean. Stelios has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Universities of City, Grandfield, Liverpool John Moores and Northumbria (Newcastle). Since 2018, he has been chairman of the business partners of Prince's Trust in the United Kingdom, a charity founded by Prince Charles of Wales. https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/support-our-work/major-gifts/enterprise-fellowship/members

From Insider Magazine (February 2021 Issue)

Source: www.philenews.com

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