Billionaire without realizing how, Taran without understanding why…


All agriculture lands are not “extravillant” and miracles happen once in a lifetime…

(All time classic, 05.09.2008, Part 1)

(Taran = peasant)

The battle that changed the world…

480 years b.C., history says that 1.000.000 soldiers from the Persian Empire invaded in Greece. This was one of the biggest armies in the history of mankind, for sure the biggest of the ancient times. If only Greeks would not have beaten Persians in the end, now the World history would have been totally different. Back then, it was the Greek admiral Themistocles, who had the brilliant idea to trick the Persian fleet and guide them to a very narrow gulf.

There, in the gulf of Salamina island, the 1.000 big and difficult to move Persian ships were destroyed by the 200 fast moving Greek ones. This was the key battle of a war that ended with the Greek victory (and started with the glorious defeat at Thermopyles, as many of you have watched in the blockbuster film “300”). Salamina, an island where one of the most important pages of the World’s military history was written…

Sakis, our hero
Salamina… where an interesting gentleman was living… let’s say his name was Sakis. Back in the late ’80s, he was a shepherd there, a relic of the medieval times. His clothes, his (so called) shoes, his… “everything” was very poor, made of extremely cheap materials. He was unshaved all the time, his wife and his 2 children were also living a very difficult life too.

Their home was not exactly what we call a home, it could be more something like a stable with 3 beds, where its bathroom was 10 meters away of it. His Greek was not easily understood by the few people who were talking to him few times per week. He was a “Taran” as we say in Romanian (“we”? ok, I exaggerated a bit, I don’t know fluent Romanian yet).

“100 million Euro is a big price?”
One day, as Sakis was out in the fields with his animals, arranging their food, a car reached him and stopped in front of him. It was not easy for him to see the people who came out of the dust and it was much more difficult to understand their language. It was Greek… but from Athens… also he noticed some blonde people, who were not talking, he had heard that some people from other distant countries don’t look like the people around him (yes, heard, he didn’t have a television, unknown thing for him).

The “people from the car” (apparently lawyers, but that time they were just “the people from the car”) informed him that they found out in the books about an uncle of his, who died and his will appointed him as the only heir. “And what is a heir?” he replied. In the end, after half an hour, he knew that he was the new owner of many hills, an endless surface of hectares. And not only. The blonde gentlemen wanted to buy his land, offering some billions of drachma (lets say 100 million Euro). He asked them if this is a big price, they said yes. He asked them how many sheeps he can buy with this amount, they told him one million. He asked them how much is one million, they told him “look there and imagine that all this area will be full of sheeps”. Sakis didn’t reply to them, asked some time to think.

“150 million Euro in order to sign”
He went home and started thinking. He felt frustrated for not being able to understand what they were offering to him, so he decided to forget the case. Two months after, the same people appeared again. They thought he was playing tough, so they met him, asked him to discuss with them at his home, in front of his family and raised the price to 150 million Euro. His sons proved to have heard more about millions and billions. In few days he signed, with a cross, the contract of selling his hills. He also entered for the first time in a bank, where they told him that he can find his money, they also gave him a “small book with money” and using it he could redraw the amount he wanted, no matter how much he had in mind.

Meeting a billionaire
I have been travelling alone to Athens since 1993, when at the age of 18 I started my first business. In the beginning of 1995’s summer I was already feeling a… veteran, knowing the basics of the city. So, it was not difficult for me to go to Asteras Palace hotel, considered the most luxurious one of Greece at that time. I was feeling a little bit nervous, I was invited in a lunch in which I would be able to meet a billionaire (billions of drachma, millions of euro, that time a billionaire), for the first time in my life. I was having my own free press and as I started to know people in the capital of the country (I come from Katerini, a city close to Thessaloniki, next to Olympus mountain), a friend of mine invited me in their lunch too.

The billionaire was… taran (villager)
What a disappointment for a 20 years old young man to find out that the billionaire I met didn’t know how to keep fork and knife, he was very dirty and he was trying to talk a language close to Greek. His clothes were very expensive, but his tie was tied like… he was hit by a truck. He was definitely a villager, but how come a villager has so much money? In the discussion that followed, I noticed that all the people were “licking” the guy really badly. Was it wrong, was it arrogant, I don’t know. What I know is that I was the only one who did not lick him, did not tell him how amazingly fantastic he was.

Sakis, the billionaire with political connections and mistresses
For unidentified reasons, the rich man liked me and after two hours we were talking together in the lobby of the hotel. He asked me and I told him about some difficulties I had in my life, which made him to open up his heart to me, narrating his story too. He was Sakis, coming from Salamina island. He described to me how intelligent he was, so as to have taken advantage of the opportunity that had appeared to him few years ago.

He let me know for all his investments and he was bragging for his high connections in politics. Obviously, he informed me also for his success in women (gave me the necessary advices too), but he asked me to keep the secret, because his wife was chasing him, while he was after “half famous” actresses and singers. I lost personal contact with him after that meeting, as he hired some personal assistants, who prevented me from talking to him again.

80% of the money gone, but who cared?
Sakis died next year, as he had an accident while being in his… helicopter. He had been to his villa together with a mistress, he left her there so as to meet another one, but unfortunately the helicopter’s pilot made a lethal mistake. His sons appeared in his funeral with new black cars, specially bought for the occasion. His… “investments” had lost almost all their value, 80% of his money was gone, but who cared?

A brilliant project
His sons decided to put all the rest in a new super business that they were so brilliant to think (by coincidence a blonde lady with a super short skirt had presented it to them, but they decided based on business criteria). They bought three huge agricultural lands, 60 km north of Athens, all of them very far from civilization or utilities. Their project was to create three “new cities” in the north of the capital, full of green areas. From these new cities, one would be dedicated to science, one to office buildings and one to light industry. Each of them would have some thousands of residential units too.

Their last money must have been spent in the presentation of their project, in a B’ Class hotel. Few months after, I heard about them again, as they were crying and begging the banks to give them loans, accusing the state for being too slow and the authorities not open to their innovative ideas. All the crappy investments of their father were “slaughtered” for few money, to pay the sharks too.

Back to where they started from…
Lots of potential “investors” saw the project but none of them invested one penny. The lands remained what they always were, agricultural lands far away from the civilization. Last time I heard of these guys, the story was that they returned back to their island, Salamina, chased by debts, banks and many others. They returned where they started from in less than 12 years.

Some hills made Sakis rich. Some agricultural lands made his sons poor again
Some hills in the middle of nowhere made someone rich. Some agricultural lands in the middle of nowhere made his sons poor again. In both cases, what happened was not the result of any strategy, they didn’t understand anything.

Investing at 50 – 60 km far from Bucharest: way too risky
I remember their story almost once per week, as I meet with investors who announce to me proudly that they have invested their money 50 – 60 km far from Bucharest, having paid “less than 10 euro / sq.m.”. I personally doubt if Bucharest will expand in the next ten years more than 35 km (much less in some directions) as people bet now, except the area of Snagov, which is a special case, or any other rare exception that will just confirm the rule.

I hope you got my point…


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