Vassilios “Bill” Lefakinis, the man who founded the first yacht charter company in Greece, passed away from natural causes on January 26, 2020, aged 86.
The self-made millionaire, and entrepreneur, having pioneered professional Yachting in Greece with the founding of his company in 1969, Valef Yachts, was the son of a Greek accountant, Joseph Lefakinis, and Educator and entrepreneur Angela Mimicopoulou, both hailing from Constantinople.
Lefakinis was born on September 8, 1933, in Athens and was an only child. Educated at Athens College, he left Greece for the USA alone at the young age of 13 to pursue a better life for his family, after having earned enough money for the ship fare selling Palmolive soap on the street. He attended Hackly Prep School in Tarrytown NY, on scholarship, creating their soccer team and leading various clothes drives in order to send back his beloved Greece.
Vassilios was a war veteran having served both in the US army and in the Greek airforce.
He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business at the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, again on scholarship, before pursuing a career in sales in Manhattan working at Filtrine Manufacturing.
The millionaire earned his company a great deal of money from securing clients, amongst which were royalty and government members, in the Middle East where he travelled frequently, opening up the market there for the company’s industrial water filtration systems. After his great success at the company and active young life in NYC, he moved back to his homeland, Greece to pursue a business of his own.
In 1969 he realized the great potential of Yachting in Greece as the wealth of the county was in its unspoiled islands, beautiful seas, and expansive coastline. Renting out boats from his friends he began his company, Valef Yachts, and invited friends and contacts he made in the USA to come over and ‘Discover the Yachting World of Greece,’ as the Valef motto states.
Word of mouth spread about the “man behind” Valef Yachts, his hospitality and the joys of sailing the Greek isles. He quickly gained celebrity clients from heads of state to stars in the film and music industries, such as The Beatles, Sting, Hugh Hefner, John Denver, Christie Brinkley and more.
He brought over the Miss Universe contest for the first time out of the USA, offering Greece more worldwide publicity. Featured in Robin Leach’s ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’, Bill reached the point of reference status.
Vassilios also founded and published the first Greek nautical magazine called ‘Sea & Yachting’, and opened a nautical boutique off of the Valef Greek office in Marina Zeas.
In 1982, Bill along with his American wife Kathy who he met in Greece when she was on holiday, opened together the USA Valef Yachts office, outside of Philadelphia. There they raised their two daughters, Alexandra and Kassandra.
Bill and Kathy owned numerous yachts, which they chartered out as well. One such yacht was a famous one owned once by Grace Kelly and Prince Ranier of Monaco, gifted to them as a nuptial present from Aristotle Onassis. This yacht, Bill named after his mother, Angela.
A member of AHEPA and the Propeller Club, Bill was also a member and past President of the Greek Yacht Owners Association, as well as past President of the Greek Yacht Brokers Association.
Bill mainly resided in Philadelphia where he raised his family, travelling often back and forth to Greece.
A yachting enthusiast, Bill was especially fond of managing his business, travelling with his family and watching movies and the news. Making people laugh brought him great pleasure, as well as offering entrepreneurial advice, but most of all, he loved his family and particularly enjoyed spending time with his wife, children, and grandchild.
Surviving with his wife are two daughters, Alexandra A. Lefakinis, of Athens, and Kassandra M. Lefakinis and her husband Achilleas Kyrtsis, also of Athens; a granddaughter, Anassa, and a grandson expected to be born soon.