NEW YORK.- by Apostolis Zoupaniotis
Cyprus American Chamber of Commerce will present Stelios Haji-ioannou, President and CEO of Easy Group, with the “Cyprus-US Distinguished Merit Award”, at a dinner to be held at the New York Hilton, Friday, November 14. 36 year old Stelios, is the major stockholder of many successful ventures in Europe and the United States and the organizers hope this event will be the starting point for the Chamber of Commerce, that works for the improvement of the economic relations between Cyprus and the U.S.
Speaking at a press conference organized by the Chamber of Commerce, the young Greek Cypriot tycoon spoke to the Greek American press about his business ventures and his future plans, many of which involve the American market.
“I am not self-made. I was born in a very big family and my father was a very successful ship-owner”, said Stelios Haji-ioannou.
He took the first steps into the business world working for his father in the shipping business, but, although that was a very good experience, it was not what Stelios – as all European media call him – had in mind.
“I have to say that I hated working for my father”, he told the Greek media.
“I am essentially what people are calling an entrepreneur, someone who doesn’t like to be in companies, doesn’t like to work for a salary and sometimes I describe myself as a serial entrepreneur. Because as soon as you bought something and it begins to be easy, you leave it and you begin something else. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last eleven years”, He said.
At the age of 25 he sat down with his father, he presented him with a business plan and with his support he started his first company. “In the paper the company was named NewCo and later became Stelmar (Stelios Maritime). Now it is listed in the NYSE .
His next step was Easy Jet, a low fare airliner he built and today is Europe’s largest low cost airline, with 20 million passengers a year, 75 aircraft and another 120 on order and with market capitalization of about 1 billion pounds. True to his beliefs, as in StelMar’s case, Stelios has stepped down from the chair, although the family still controls about 40% of the company.
“I don’t want to be the employee of the company”, he said.
After Easy Jet he flew away for other ventures, building already 7 companies. His portfolio includes, Internet Cafe (with stores in New York), low budget car rental, low budget movie theatres, a credit card company and soon an Easy Pizza.
“One good side effect of this award”, he added, “is that it inspires people hopefully to start companies; If we can get more young people to say, I am not going to work for someone, I ‘m going to start a company”.
Stelios believes in the opportunities offered by “franchising”.
“I think it helps the economy to grow, there’s more wealth created, more employment for everybody. When you are a responsible entrepreneur, you share your wealth with your people. Stock options make them part owners in your company and then everybody benefits”.
Stelios is single and while in New York for business, he always stays at the Four Season on 57th Street in Manhattan. He says he is strongly apolitical “in the sense that he doesn’t support one or the other party. On the national issue, he hopes that the problem will be resolved very soon within the European Union.
“I really believe that the answer will come with the entry into the European Union. Both sides have to give something and find a compromise”.
Asked by the GreekNews if he would be ready to invest in the Turkish Cypriot Federal State, if there was a solution in Cyprus, he says:
“In fact I want to open an easy branch internet café in Kyrenia through franchising and I will probably do it, why not?”.