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In memoriam: Vassilios Lefakinis, founder of first ever Greek charter company, passes away

Industry news

By Katia Damborsky  30 January 2020

Vassilios “Bill” Lefakinis, who founded the first ever charter company in Greece, passed away on January 26 aged 86. 

Vassilios “Bill” Lefakinis will be remembered by the yachting industry for pioneering yacht charter in the East Mediterranean and opening up the world to the wonders of Greece. 

In 1969, he founded Valef Yachts. He saw hidden potential in his country, with its countless islands, secret coves and little beaches only accessible by boat, and helmed a new form of tourism and a new way for visitors to fall in love with Greece.

Since its inception, the business has been family-run and built on the Lefakinis family's shared pride and love for their country.

Many of the key players in the Greek charter industry are former employees of Mr. Lefakinis, and he leaves behind an incredible legacy for the charter sector across Greece.

In memory of Vassilios “Bill” Lefakinis

The self-made millionaire and entrepreneur moved from Athens to study business in America, where he got his first job in sales. After considerable success in the US, he moved back to Greece and booked his first charter on board his yacht Rowena, which he rented out to American singer-songwriter Kenny Rogers. 

Word of his warmth, hospitality, and good-natured spirit spread, and soon his client list included the Beatles, Sting, Hugh Hefner, John Denver, Christie Brinkley, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.

The charter company went on to gain considerable publicity, with yachts booked by the company featuring in movies and TV shows, including Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’.

Vintage shot of Valef Yachts on board yacht in Greece

Mr. Lefakinis saw hidden potential in his country, with its countless islands, secret coves and little beaches only accessible by boat.

Hugh Hefner on board yacht in Greece chartered from Valef Yachts
Vassilios “Bill” Lefakinis talks to movie star

Mr. Lefakinis has been integral in promoting yacht charter in Greece. In 1973 he took over a small yacht owners organization and renamed it the Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners Association, which still exists today. With the help of a legal team, he went on to develop the HYBA contracts which are still used for yacht charter in Greece. 

Mr. Lefakinis went on to publish the first nautical magazine in Greece, titled Sea & Yachting, and opened a nautical boutique close in Marina Zeas which sold luxury fashion and accessories created by famous Greek designer Yannis Tseklenis.

Word of his warmth, hospitality, and good-natured spirit spread, and soon his client list included the Beatles, Sting, Hugh Hefner, John Denver and many more.

Yacht in Greece
Party on yacht in Greece

Together with his wife Kathy, Mr. Lefakinis opened a second office in America, close to Philadelphia. They owned numerous yachts together, including the 44m/ 145ft motor yacht ANGELA, (now sold and renamed GRACE), which was formerly owned by Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

In more recent years, his yachts have hosted Kim Kardashian and her family for three episodes of ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’.

The company also helped produce the docufilm ‘Guardians of the Aegean’ along with Pierre-Yves Cousteau, son of legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.

Miss Universe on yacht in marina in Greece
Valef Yachts supermodels
Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian on board Valef Yachts in Greece

Mr. Lefakinis was also committed to philanthropic causes throughout his life. In 1978 he founded PAKOE" (The PanHellenic Ecological Research Foundation), working together with a group of volunteer scientists to analyze and find solutions for ocean pollution. Valef Yachts provided the funding for the yachts and airplanes used in collecting the data.

Mr. Lefakinis is survived by his wife, two daughters Alexandra A. Lefakinis and Kassandra M. Lefakinis, a granddaughter and a grandson expected to be born to soon.

Our thoughts are with his family at this time. 


 
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