George Dalacouras, one of the most versatile and successful shipowners of his generation, passed away on Thursday.
Born in 1938, Dalacouras made his mark in the maritime industry with Dalex Shipping, a company he founded 53 years ago and which continues today under his sons Vassilis and Michalis.
When he launched the firm, he was part of a new generation of players entering Greek shipping.
Hailing from Arcadia, a landlocked region in southern Greece, Dalacouras had no prior family connection to the industry.
That did not prevent traditional shipowner JM Carras from picking him to serve as his personal assistant after a suggestion by Athens College — Dalacouras’ alma mater, to which he would maintain a lifelong dedication.
After a stint with owner Aristides Alafouzos, Dalacouras struck out on his own, setting up Dalex in 1968.
First assembling a fleet of about 10 small, Mediterranean-going bulkers, he soon ventured into larger ships, ordering newbuildings at Japanese yards in the mid-1970s.
At the head of Dalex, Dalacouras bought or sold more than 100 ships, primarily bulkers, proving a skilled asset player during several market cycles.
Over the course of his career, he invested in coastal shipping as well as in boxships — an activity continued today by Conbulk Shipmanagement, which is led by his eldest son, Dimitris.
Dalacouras also played a part in his country’s politics in particularly turbulent times. Right after the military junta fell in 1974, Dalacouras was elected as a member of parliament for the conservative party, which secured Greece’s return to democracy.
It was a politically significant move, as senior representatives of the maritime industry had been tainted by their ties to the military regime.
Seven years later, Dalacouras was among the first Greek lawmakers to sit in the European Parliament when their country joined the European Union (then known as European Community).
He soon dropped politics, however, to help Dalex navigate the great shipping crisis of the 1980s.
“It was really bad. I remember it well because I was 13 years old at the time and had my first whiff of company life in the office,” Vassilis Dalacouras told TradeWinds in an interview in 2018.
The bug of public office did not leave George Dalacouras entirely, though.
In 2004, he became the first shipowner to be appointed civil governor of the northern Greek monastic community of Mount Athos, better known in Greece as the Holy Mountain.
Dalacouras held the largely honorary post, which, however, involves some real administrative responsibilities, until 2010. The Holy Mountain’s current governor is shipowner Thanassis Martinos.
Typically for many Greeks, Dalacouras combined spiritual sensitivities with more secular passions, notably his love for the AEK Athens football team, whose home matches he never missed before its old stadium was torn down in 2003. Fellow shipowner Petros Pappas is also a fan and the club is headed by shipowner Dimitris Melissanidis.
A trained economist from the University of Athens, Dalacouras also took initiatives to promote Greece’s economic relations with Turkey and Israel.
His three sons apart, Dalacouras is survived by his wife, Helen, and daughter Katerina, an associate professor at the London School of Economics.