Send money to Greece? Have you lost your marbles?


March 2, 2010

Shopping centre mogul Con Markis (L) is worth $1.07 billion. Former chief of Jubilee Gold Mines, Kerry Harmanis is worth $500 million.Shopping centre mogul Con Markis (L) is worth $1.07 billion. Former chief of Jubilee Gold Mines, Kerry Harmanis is worth $500 million.

AUSTRALIA has some very rich Greeks. Many have built fortunes from nothing in a generation or two. So they might baulk at a bold request from the mother country: send cash to rescue Greece from its debt crisis.

No way, says Peter Kazacos, the son of Greek immigrants who has made his millions in Australia as an IT entrepreneur. He gives a lot to charity but says he will not throw good money after bad.

The Greek parliament’s president, Philippos Petsalnikos, says wealthy Greeks around the world could contribute to a fund to slash the nation’s €300 billion ($A454 billion) debt.

Many of the seven million members of the Greek diaspora have made fortunes in Australia, the United States, Britain and South Africa, so successful individuals could contribute to a fund headed by ”a personality of broad public appeal beyond party politics”, says Mr Petsalnikos, a prominent member of the governing socialist party PASOK.

The Herald cast the net wide yesterday for potential benefactors among rich Greek Australians, who include six members of the latest BRW Rich 200 list. We got one reply – in the negative.

Mr Kazacos owned 20 per cent of Kaz Computing when he sold it to Telstra in 2004 for $333 million, and he is building a new IT and telecommunications venture, Anittel. He knows how quickly money can be made, and lost.

”If you were going to contribute to something like that, you’d have to be comfortable they knew how to solve the crisis,” he said. ”I’m not sure that’s the case.”

It’s not that he lacks generosity. Mr Kazacos and his Greek-born wife, Vicki, run the Kazacos Foundation. ”We focus on providing money to areas where we can see it actually grow rather than be consumed,” he says.

There’s an Aboriginal entrepreneurship project in the Southern Highlands and they’re about to launch a local version of the micro-loans concept for the disadvantaged.

Greece, he says, is not such a solid bet with its poor governance and self-interested politicians; a questionable work ethic; a failure to live up to its responsibilities since joining the European Union; and a huge black economy in which ”no one’s paying the right amount of tax”.

The Greek government might try knocking on some other doors in Australia. There’s Kerry Harmanis, former chief of Jubilee Gold Mines. He quit working as a lawyer to go prospecting in Western Australia in 1979. He paid his way by running a seafood van for a few years. Now his personal fortune is valued at $500 million. We could not reach him yesterday.

Nor did we get a call back from Mark Bouris, the kid from working-class Punchbowl who founded Wizard Home Loans and now hosts The Apprentice Australia on Channel Nine.

The shopping centre mogul Con Makris was out of the country. Nick Paspaley, at the head of the pearling family and its $536-million fortune, was busy in meetings. George Kailis, from the family that found its fortune in fish, was busy, too.

As was Costas Anastasiadis, the young founder and CEO of the restaurant chain Crust Gourmet Pizza.The Greek government may have better connections.

with Guardian News & Media

Peter Hartcher-Page 11


Kerry Harmanis Personal fortune: $500m.

Con Makris. Combined fortune: $1.07b.

Theo Karedis estimated fortune: $356m.

Nick Paspaley head of the $536m pearling family.

Costas Anastasiadis fortune: $39m.