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Who are the men behind Eurobank and Alpha Bank?

29 August 2011 / 13:08:50  GRReporter
7351 reads

Victoria Mindova

When the two most powerful men of the private banking system in Greece, Spiros Latsis (EFG Eurobank) and Yannis Kostopoulos (Alpha Bank) decide to merge their banking institutions in a single colossus, it means that the country is in serious danger indeed. Their banks are not just their profitable business but part of the family heritage, for which they are responsible, which they protect and even have increased over the years. In other words, if two families of bankers, for which it is a matter of honour to protect and increase their property, are forced to unite in order not to lose what they have achieved over the decades, then Greece is much closer to a complete collapse than any credit agency could forecast.  

This was my first thought when the news of the merger of Alpha Bank and Eurobank broke in all media. GRReporter looked for some information about the men behind these legendary Greek banks and their history until today's key moment. Much is known and has been written for Spiros Latsis. He is known not only as a banker and as the son of the Greek shipping tycoon Yannis Latsis, but as one of the richest people in the world according to Forbes with commercial interests on almost every continent on earth.

While Eurobank started its operations in the country as a financial institution in the 1990s, the history of Alpha Bank dates back to late 19th century. After the National Bank of Greece, the Bank of Kostopoulos dynasty is the second oldest financial institution in the country. The history of Kostopoulos family in the base of which is Ioannis F. Kostopoulos is as intriguing as the Latsis’. In 1879, he started a business in Kalamata with main activity trade in textiles. The business was very successful and in 1910 was founded one of the first private commercial banks, which was renamed to Bank of Kalamata in 1918. In 1924, the bank's headquarters moved to Athens under the name Greek Commercial Credit Bank, and the bank was given the name Alpha in 1994.

Yannis Kostopoulos (1938), a grandson of Ioannis, is Executive Director and General Manager of the Bank since 1973 and Chairman of the Board and CEO from 1984 to 1996. From 1996 to 2005, he was Chairman of the Board and CEO of Alpha Bank. Although Yannis Kostopoulos is the head of Alfa Bank since 1973, he holds not more than 4% of the shares of the bank, founded in 1924.

Unlike Kostopoulos dynasty, Spiros Latsis is still running the Latsis family wealth. He holds about 40% of EFG Eurobank Ergasias – the Greek branch of the Swiss EFG Group, over 30% of Hellenic Petroleum and remains the major player on the energy market in the Balkans through his company Paneuropean Oil and Industrial Holdings SA. Besides the traditional banking business, Latsis Group manages the company of luxury jet services PrivatAir and Lamda Development, which is one of the leading real estate companies. The company is the inspirer and constructor of The Mall in Athens in 2005. The influence of Spiros Latsis in global banking circles is undeniable, but according to the German newspaper Die Welt, he maintains close relationships with the men of the day in Brussels. According to the newspaper, today’s head of the European Commission Jose Emmanuel Barroso has spent a week on the yacht of the billionaire several years ago. It is a coincidence that a month later, the European Commission has approved a € 10.3 billion aid for one of Latsis’ shipping companies.

Whatever lies in the history of Alpha Bank and Eurobank and their heads, it now bears a new financial institution, derived from two traditionally strong banks of long history, which must withstand the impact of the economic crisis. The merger of the two institutions is only the beginning of the restructuring of the local and European banking system and new movements on the financial board of Greece are to come.

Tags: Alpha BankEurobankEconomyCompaniesSpiros LatsisYannis KostopoulosMergerGreeceBanks
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