Self-Made Billionaire Business Owner to Deliver Daemen’s Commencement Address
May 2, 2014
Director of Institutional Communication
AMHERST, N.Y. -- John Catsimatidis, a self-made billionaire and chairman/CEO of the Red Apple Group, which is ranked by Forbesas one of the largest private companies in the country, will deliver the 2014 commencement address at Daemen College’s annual commencement ceremony being held at 2:30 p.m. May 17 in Kleinhans Music Hall.
Catsimatidis oversees holdings in oil refining, retail petroleum products, convenience stores, real estate, aviation, and supermarkets with investments in both medical and industrial technology. His companies post annual sales of approximately $5 billion. With more than 8,000 employees, he is a major employer in the New York metropolitan area and upstate New York.
Born on the Greek island of Nisyros, Catsimatidis’ family emigrated to New York City when he was 6-months-old. Growing up in Harlem, he studied engineering at New York University and worked in a supermarket owned by a close family friend who lent him the down payment on a small supermarket in Manhattan.
Since opening his first store in 1968, Catsimatidis has created one of the most successful private companies in the country, having acquired Gristedes Supermarkets, Manhattan's largest, high-quality supermarket chain. He went on to acquire Pantry Pride in Florida and the Bahamas and Grand Union in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Forbes 2013 list of largest private companies, the Red Apple Group ranked 98thand Catsimatidis ranked 161st in the magazine’s 2014 list of "Richest People in America."
In the mid-1980s, Catsimatidis acquired United Refining Co. He increased his holdings in the petroleum field in 2012 with the addition of a major storage and distribution facility in Long Island and New York, as well as building in Brooklyn one of the largest biodiesel facilities in the country.
Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Real Estate has substantial investments in the New York and New Jersey markets. His real estate division has developed housing and commercial development projects in the Brooklyn and New York City areas.
A licensed jet pilot, Catsimatidis started a corporate jet company in the late 1970s and built it up to 48 jets when he sold it to Net Jets. He owned and operated Capitol Airlines, the 11th largest commercial airline in the United States. Currently, his Red Apple Aviation operates personalized large corporate aircraft.
Last fall, Catsimatidis received the Patriot Award from the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation, an honor presented by Tom Ridge, former secretary of Homeland Security. Active in local and national politics, he was named to the transition team for Governor Andrew Cuomo, and he sought the Republican nomination for New York City mayor in 2013.