Libra Group CEO Rides Underdog Mentality to Global Success

By Dave Hendrick


George Logothetis is used to being underestimated.

Growing up in North London, Logothetis said he was acutely aware of others who looked down at his family and his family’s history due to their humble roots.

Harnessing the disdain, Logothetis used the sentiments as motivation to transform a small family company into a major ship owner, which he and his brother eventually grew into Libra Group, a global business comprising 30 subsidiaries in 35 countries operating in transportation, real estate, hospitality and renewable energy.

Speaking at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business as part of the Leadership Speaker Series, Logothetis described taking the reins of the family business at 19, a time when the company had two aging ships and limited resources.

Realizing that he would either “learn to survive or die,” Logothetis managed to both survive and grow the company, chartering ships with purchase options and creatively financing distressed assets, resulting in a fleet of 60 vessels by 2003, a time when valuations in shipping were on the rise.

Then, resisting a natural tendency to simply continue to amass ships, Logothetis used an improving market to sell off the fleet, selling them all between 2003 and 2007.

With an eye toward creating a truly diversified company, Logothetis sent trusted employees or acquaintances around the world with a goal of developing a new kind of business that would eventually become the Libra Group.

If all of Libra’s global business builders shared a trait, it was defiance in the face of being a perceived underdog — and an unerring faith in an ability to accomplish their goals.

“It sounds simple, but we went through some extreme times,” Logothetis said. “We learned that belief is the key to everything. If you believe it’s possible, you have a chance of making it possible.”

As commercial interests developed into new areas, Logothetis noted the “psychological freedom” that diversity brought, as it became far easier to sell assets when knowing the resulting capital was being deployed in new areas.

“We sold our whole aviation fleet in 2007,” Logothetis said, by way of example. “These volatile markets like shipping and aviation go up and they go down and you have to get it right.”

In addition to its diversified global holdings, Libra has become known for its socially conscious activities, most of which involve efforts to empower underserved or oppressed people, both in the United States and abroad, including support for My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, the creation of annual entrepreneurship awards in Greece and the United States, and a global internship program providing opportunity for more than 100 young people each year.

Libra is also the founding sponsor of Concordia, the public-private collaboration organization with whom Darden presents the annual P3 Impact Award.

Said Logothetis, “Now that we have a certain amount of influence, we intend to use it wisely.”

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

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