Ari Onassis was a business partner but above all a very good friend of mine for many years until his death in 1975. It was great to know him and fantastic to be involved in his odyssey and contributes to build his empire. There are so many things that are said about Ari and by creating this blog I want to reflect the reality about him to make sure his memory is not stained by gossiping people that don't know anything about him. You can also view my website:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Onassis's Saudi Business

Since Aristotle Socrates Onassis signed an agreement with King Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz to form a company for shipping Saudi Arabian oil, the Greek-born tanker tycoon has found his scuppers awash with criticism. Other shippingmen attacked the deal as a step toward monopolizing the shipment of Saudi Arabian oil;* the British and U.S. Governments both protested to Saudi Arabia that the deal would squeeze out shipping companies now carrying the oil. And Arabian American Oil Co. (Aramco) complained that its interests as a producer were endangered.
The New York Journal of Commerce reported that more trouble was blowing up for "Ari" Onassis. Ship Owner and Broker Spiridon Katapodis had filed a sworn deposition with the British consulate at Nice charging that Onassis had landed the contract only by paying high Saudi Arabian officials more than $1,000,000. Katapodis, who said that he was supposed to get $1,000,000 himself for being Onassis' go-between in the deal, announced in Paris this week that he was going to sue Onassis for reneging: Onassis, he claimed, signed the agreement with him in ink that faded out.
Services Rendered. In the deposition, which was accompanied by photostats of documents bearing on the deal, Katapodis charged that $350,000 had been given to Mohamed Abdullah Alireza, Saudi Arabia's Minister of State (now Minister of Commerce), for his services in getting the contract signed. Alireza, the deposition claimed, also got another $280,000 intended for the Minister of Finance for exempting Onassis' shipping company from taxes. Another $200,000 was reported to have gone to other palace officials.
In addition to these outright payments, said Katapodis, Minister of State Alireza would get a royalty income of sixpence per ton on oil shipped for the duration of the 30-year pact. His guaranteed minimum: $140,000 a year. He would also be sole agent for all Onassis ships clearing Saudi Arabian ports, collecting a fixed fee of $280 a vessel. Should Alireza die before the agreement expires, the deposition claimed, the money will go to his heirs. When Saudi Arabian officials wanted more money, said the deposition, Onassis did not balk: "Onassis told me ... he would play an important role in the development of natural resources in Saudi Arabia which . . . would make him . . . the most powerful man in the world."
"Completely Unfounded."In Manhattan, Ari Onassis denied everything. "The charges are completely unfounded," he said. While he knew Katapodis as a "peddler" of deals, "I have never been represented by him in any negotiations." To Onassis it looked as if Katapodis had been put up to making the deposition by "competitors."
From an Onassis associate in Cairo came another denial of the whole business. Ali Alireza, brother and business partner of Minister of Commerce Mohamed Abdullah and a key figure in the negotiations, said: "I can swear no such payments were made . . . Mr. Onassis made his offer directly to His Majesty's government ... So whom would he bribe, or why? Suppose he bribed two, even three men. The agreement still needed the Cabinet's unanimous consent . . . Certainly Onassis couldn't bribe men like these with a million dollars."
*Under the deal, Onassis would ship only 10% of Saudi Arabia's oil at first, but the percentage would be stepped up over the years.

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