Tips from the Most Productive People: John P. Calamos Sr.
-by Anthe Mitrakos
“I’ve always liked being a pilot because it really makes you focus. Piloting is a total immersion of what you are doing, and I find that really interesting. You better not be thinking about anything else that is going on. You better be focused on what you are doing. You are also not having fun unless you are scared. Flying airplanes is fun. I think there is a similarity between flying airplanes and managing investments. It’s that when you are trying to achieve higher returns, you have to take on risk just like when you are getting into an airplane. You are taking a risk. The similarity is how you manage that risk. You manage the risk through knowledge. The more you know, the more you understand, and the more successful you’ll be. You don’t want to be studying the weather when you are going through a thunderstorm. You better know it’s going to be there before you get there.” – John P. Calamos
- Age: 73
- Enjoys: Flying planes
- Favorite Greek Destination: Golf at Costa Navarino in Kalamata
- Alma Mater: Illinois Institute of Technology ’65
- Degrees: Economics, MBA in Finance
- Gifts: National Hellenic Museum, $2 million
- Illinois Institute of Technology, $10 million
With humble beginnings working at his family’s grocery store in Chicago, a young John Calamos could only have dreamed of becoming one of the richest people in America. As a teenager, he came across old stock certificates from the Great Depression in the basement of the family store. He researched them, thinking they might be of value. Unfortunately they were not, but nevertheless, this discovery fostered his lifelong interest in the stock market. Calamos’ mother later allowed him to invest the family’s $5,000 nest egg into stocks. The first in his family to pursue higher education, he later became a stockbroker and specialist in convertible securities after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the rest, as they say, is history. He founded Calamos Asset Management in 1977, growing the firm into a global asset manager and taking it public in 2004. The company currently manages some $26 billion. But there’s a lot more to this man than impressive numbers and fancy offices. Like in business, Calamos has reached for the skies, quite literally, as an Air Force combat pilot in Vietnam. His love of planes is evident in his collection which includes a Marchetti SF 260, a North American T-6 Texan, a Citation X, and a beautiful Falcon 7X. “I just like flying,” he tells Portes Magazine.
John P. Calamos Sr. reflects on GREEK affairs in an interview with Portes Magazine.
On Business in Greece
“Prime Minster Samaras and the Government of Greece are working hard to expand the private sector in Greece. The ability to start business and become competitive in this global economy is essential to create prosperity in Greece.
Why are so many Greek people here in the United States? There is a saying that capital goes to where it’s treated best. If people can’t find good investments somewhere, they go somewhere else. Capital can go anywhere in the world, and human capital does the same thing. If you are working hard but can’t be successful, you go somewhere where you can be. That is reflected in the Greek immigration experience over the last 100 years.
There are fine companies in Greece as well, but how do we get that success to be more mainstream? How do we create additional ways to share that motivation? It’s the same thing here in the United States. Job creation comes from small business. The government has begun reducing regulation to make it easier to start a business. As Prime Minster Samaras said, ‘It’s time to cut the red tape and roll out the red carpet.’
We need job growth from small businesses, but how do we do that? One of the incentives that we have always had in the United States – and in the Greek-American community – is upward mobility. Even if you’re poor, if you work hard you can become successful.
The Greek administration is making progress to fix their problems, but generally, the infrastructure in Greece has become so complex and difficult. Greece is not alone in all this. Greece is an example of what is going on in the rest of the world, and the issue is how we get the world back on a growth track.”
On Being Greek
“Growing up, I learned a lot about the Greek Church and the Bible, but it really wasn’t until I went through college that I really learned about the Greek philosophers, and that really intrigued me. So looking back at my career and my history that was very important to me. Learning about philosophy was extremely important to my growth.
We don’t go to college to get a job, we go to college to learn how to think. The job will come from making the right choices.”
On Greek Immigration to the U.S.
“The Greeks didn’t come here rich. They came as dirt-poor immigrants. They didn’t know the language, and they didn’t wait around for a handout. They came to work hard and contribute to society, and now the Greek people are considered one of the richest ethnic groups in the U.S. It wasn’t given to them, they worked for it. They lived the American Dream. The National Hellenic Museum and cultural center are all about documenting and cultivating these values for future generations and hopefully inspiring the youth.”
On the National Hellenic Museum
“The reason I’m involved with the NHM is to really help motivate kids to look at history, the contribution of Greek-Americans to the United States, and the contribution of Hellenism to the world. I think preserving this history is very important. This is the last generation that will be able to do this, because otherwise, given the demographic trends, the preservation of Hellenism might be lost. If we don’t do it, who is going to do it?”
“I go to Greece quite often. I might go a couple times a year. When you travel around, you travel to the villages or areas away from Athens and you see hard working people and that is positive. I think we know from our own heritage that Greeks can think and they can create.”