Investment

Old shipping families unite to invest in food tech

Two storied shipping dynasties have invested in a food tech company making a protein through fermenting fungi used as a meat substitute, as family office investments in alternative food production continue apace. 

Olympic Investments, connected to the Onassis Greek shipping dynasty, has teamed up with HAL Investments, owned by the Van der Vorm family, who made their fortune from shipping business, the Holland America Line, to invest in Glasgow-based ENOUGH. 

A big part of the Van der Vorms current wealth is linked to their investment in optical retail, GrandVision, which the family made more than 20 years ago. GrandVision, through more than 60 acquisitions, has gone on to be one of the biggest optical retailers in the world, with annual revenues of €3.5 billion

Olympic and HAL Investments, together with CPT Capital, the family office of Jeremy Coller, a UK-based private equity entrepreneur, and four institutional investors, committed €42 million to the Scottish group in a Series B funding round. 

The round represents the first serious level of funding for ENOUGH that was spun out from the Scottish-based University of Strathclyde.  Previous backers were mostly individuals connected to the group and a government-backed investment bank. 

Olympic is part of the Onassis Foundation, which oversees the philanthropic giving of some 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. Onassis 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, and the Onassis Foundation. 

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.  

HAL Investments, based in Rotterdam, is connected to HAL Holding, a Curaçao-based company set up by the Van der Vorm family when they sold the Holland America Line to Carnival Corporation in 1989. In turn, all the shares in HAL Holding are owned by the listed HAL Trust. But despite its listing on Euronext, the Van der Vorms own around 70% of the shares in the Trust. 

A big part of the Van der Vorms current wealth is linked to their investment in optical retail, GrandVision, which the family made more than 20 years ago. GrandVision, through more than 60 acquisitions, has gone on to be one of the biggest optical retailers in the world, with annual revenues of €3.5 billion. HAL Investments holds 77% of the shares in GrandVision. 

Holland-American Line was one of the great transatlantic passenger shipping lines of the late 19th and 20th centuries.  Carnival still uses the famous logo on some of its cruise liners, which depicts the sailing ship De Halve Maen, the boat that Henry Hudson discovered Manhattan in 1609, with the bow of  Nieuw Amsterdam (II) (pictured), the most famous ship of the Holland-American Line. 

Family office capital has been a big source of early investment for alternative food startups. Groups like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods received much of their original funding from private capital. Also, CPT Capital is arguable the family office most committed to alternative food ventures, with most of its 28 investments to date involved in the sector. 

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