The world of Greek tourism recently said goodbye to Vassilios “Bill” Lefakinis, a pioneer in yachting and a great supporter of the sector.
Bill, who passed away of natural causes on January 26 at the age of 86, was a self-made millionaire, and entrepreneur having pioneered professional yachting in Greece with the founding of his company in 1969, Valef Yachts.
The son of a Greek accountant, Joseph Lefakinis, and Educator and entrepreneur Angela Mimicopoulou, both hailing from Istanbul, Vassilios Joseph Lefakinis was born on September 8, 1933, in Athens, Greece, a single child. Educated at Athens College, he left Greece for the United States alone at the young age of 13 to pursue a better life for his family. He attended Hackly Prep School in Tarrytown NY, on scholarship, creating their soccer team and leading various clothes drives in order to send back to his beloved Greece.
Bill was a war veteran having served both in the US army and in the Greek airforce.
He earned 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.
After a successful career at the company and an 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, considering that the wealth of the country was in its unspoilt 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 US 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 yachting 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, etc.
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 point of reference status.
He 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 together numerous yachts which they chartered out as well. One such yacht was the famous yacht 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 Propellar 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 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.