Investment

Iconic family name backs innovative medical device company

A Swiss and Dutch med-tech company developing treatments for spinal cord injuries has received backing from one of Europe’s most famous family dynasties – or at least the foundation connected to the family. 

Olympic Investments has jointly led a venture round in Onward, which is developing a so-called Implantable Neuro-stimulation System (INS) for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Olympic was joined by five other investors in a round worth €26.5 million for Onward, bringing its total funding to date to $73 million.

Olympic is connected to the Onassis Foundation, which oversees the philanthropic giving of part of the fortune made by Aristotle Onassis, the shipping/oil tycoon and playboy, who became one of the world’s richest individuals before he died in 1975. The Greek shipping tycoon set up the foundation after the untimely death of his son Alexander in a plane crash in 1974. 

A complex structure exists between the continuing operational business of Athens-based Olympic Shipping and Management, which is effectively Aristotle’s Onassis’ company Olympic Maritime, set up in 1952.  

Although not as big or as influential as it was under Aristotle, the non-listed shipping business is still sizable, operating a fleet, according to the foundation, of 20 oil tankers and eight bulk carriers. Through subsidiary Olympic Investments, the management company also oversees a big real estate portfolio of properties in London, New York, Athens, and Romania. 

The direct beneficiaries aren’t any member of the Onassis family, but rather 100% of the profits end up at the foundation. No member of the Onassis family sits on the board of the Liechtenstein-based foundation. 

The foundation’s current head is lawyer Anthony Papadimitriou, and the board is made up of mainly shipping luminaries, including ex-Olympic Shipping and Management senior managers and confidants of Aristotle. 

Aristotle split his fortune between his daughter Christina Onassis, who was left around 55% of his estate, and the Onassis Foundation. Christina’s daughter Athina, the sole survivor of the Onassis dynasty, inherited her mother’s fortune when she died in 1988. Back in 2005, according to media coverage at the time, Athina tried to gain the chair of the foundation. Those efforts appear to have been unsuccessful.

Another investment office connected to the Onassis Foundation is ASOFIN Management, and like the foundation, is also based in Liechtenstein. 

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