George Economou has hired a new Greek manager to help grow his rapidly evolving and expanding shipping empire.

John Papagiannakopoulos, who was portfolio manager at Tufton Investment Management, is joining TMS Group as head of “tactical opportunities”, the Greek company said on Wednesday.

“John’s main responsibilities are to seek growth opportunities for the group’s maritime assets and to source, structure and execute on attractive, differentiated business opportunities, including strategic joint ventures and partnerships across the maritime industry,” it said.

The versatile brief matches Papagiannakopoulos’ position at Tufton group, where he “sourced, negotiated, structured and executed Tufton’s $1.2bn portfolio in maritime investments and divestments over the last 10 years”, according to the statement.

The new hire is a sign that Economou is preparing to gear up his impressive expansion campaign even further.

The Greek tycoon poured billions of dollars into investments for about 40 bulker and tanker newbuildings in China last year.

In January, he topped this up with another round of orders worth close to half a billion dollars in South Korea for his first very large ammonia carriers.

Papagiannakopoulos will probably also play a part in Economou’s growing role as an investor in other shipping companies.

During 2023, Economou acquired minority stakes and promised to play an active role in four US-listed maritime outfits: capesize specialist Seanergy Maritime; Aliki Paliou-controlled Performance Shipping; Semiramis Paliou-led OceanPal; and John Wobensmith-led Genco Shipping & Trading.

Papagiannakopoulos studied machine engineering at Imperial College London and then worked at Barclays and Credit Suisse.

He joined Tufton in 2013 — for the first eight years as vice president for asset-backed investments and since July 2021 as portfolio manager.

His departure is the second of a senior manager from Tufton since 14 November, when it was announced that investment chief Paulo Almeida was leaving for personal reasons.

In December, Germany’s Zech group revealed that it is a shareholder of Tufton Investment Management and would henceforth take a more active stance.

When Zech announced on 21 December that it was selling 100% of its interest in Zeaborn Ship Management, it said it would focus on the expansion of its maritime assets and maritime investments divisions, the latter of which includes Tufton.

On 17 January, London-listed Tufton Oceanic Assets revealed that it has been considering its near-term future as shipping moves towards decarbonisation — possibly with a fleet sale by the end of the decade, to be followed by fresh, low-carbon shipping investments.