Kyriakos Mamidakis was the model Greek businessman. From humble roots on the Greek island of Crete— a man who was said to have never forgotten where he came from, he and his brothers built a small family business that became one of the region’s largest companies.
The 84-year-old businessman was found dead in his Athens home this past weekend with a single gunshot wound to his head and a gun next to him. Police have treated the death as a suicide.
Only a week prior, Mamidoil-Jetoil had filed for bankruptcy, seeking protection from creditors who are owed almost €300— including over €1 million to the company’s 160 employees.
Although based in petroleum products and once boasting a network of over 600 gas stations throughout Greece, the company’s portfolio includes storage and distribution facilities for fuel products in Thessaloniki, a shipping fleet, luxury hotels, as well as wine and olive oil production.
The Mamidoil bankruptcy and its chairman’s suicide is the latest in a string of shocks to the Athenian business community— victims of a seven-year recession that has decimated the middle and working classes and has closed hundreds of thousands of small businesses throughout Greece.
Marinopoulos Group, one of the biggest super market chains in Greece, also filed for bankruptcy last week, leaving the fate of 13,000 employees in the air, not to mention thousands of small farms and producers who sold to the chain.
Ilektroniki Athinon, a consumer electronics chain shuttered its 46 stores this year, leaving hundreds of employees without jobs and millions of euro in debt.
The Ledra Hotel, once a shining star in the Marriott’s chain of luxury five-star properties, also closed its doors abruptly this year, as did Pyrsos Group, one of Greece’s largest security companies.
The Financial Times said that many analysts blame the relationships between Greek politicians, company owners and bankers that allowed many large— yet unviable— companies to continue operating.
“Some analysts say a nexus of relationships between Greek politicians, company owners and bankers allowed many large companies to continue operating — thus protecting thousands of jobs — even though they could no longer be considered viable enterprises,” the Times said in their story about Mamidakis’ suicide.
The newspaper also quoted Miranda Xafa, an economist and researcher who said blame shouldn’t rest solely on the current government.
“If previous governments had acted sooner to ensure that the banks began cleaning up non-performing loans, perhaps some of these events could have been avoided,” Xafa told the Times.