Alexander Onassis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Alexander Onassis
Born (1948-04-30)April 30, 1948
New York, United States
Died January 23, 1973(1973-01-23) (aged 24)
Athens, Greece
Relatives Aristotle Onassis (father)
Athina Livanos (mother)
Christina Onassis (sister)
Athina Onassis Roussel (niece)
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (stepmother)
Caroline Kennedy (stepsister)
Stavros Niarchos (stepfather,uncle)
Eugenia Livanos (aunt)
George S. Livanos (uncle)
Stavros Livanos (grandfather)

Alexander S. Onassis (Greek: Αλέξανδρος Ωνάσης; April 30, 1948 – January 23, 1973) was the first heir presumptive to the Onassis fortune. He was the only son of Aristotle Onassis and Tina Livanos. He had one sibling, Christina Onassis, the mother of Athina Onassis Roussel. Onassis died in an aircrash at the age of 24.

Early life[edit]

Alexander Onassis was born in Harkness Pavilion, a clinic in New York City. He had the same name as his father's uncle, who was murdered during World War I.

Apart from four hours at Le Rosey, Onassis had no formal schooling nor did he have friends of his own age. Despite not being gifted academically, he was very knowledgeable about automobiles and motors, which impressed Gianni Agnelli from Fiat according to Peter Evans Onassis biographer. Onassis also fostered vocational ambitions of becoming a pilot, but this was prevented due to his extremely poor eyesight.

His closest friends were his house employees such as Christian Cafarakis.

Onassis and his sister Christina were extremely close. Their bond exceeded the normal ties of a brother and sister. They were bonded further by the shared traumas caused by a workaholic, obsessive, and sometimes abusive father.[1][2] Furthermore, it has been said that Tina had difficult relationships with her children, especially with Christina, from whom she expected particular perfection.[1] Nonetheless, Alexander and Christina were loyal and loving to their parents but seem never to have accepted or liked their stepmother, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.[1][3]

Despite having an intense dislike for Jacqueline, they did warm to her children, Caroline and John[citation needed]. One of John's fondest memories was riding in Alexander's Piaggio plane.[3]

Later years and death[edit]

Onassis dated Fiona (née Campbell Walter) Thyssen, a woman sixteen years his senior and of whom his father strongly disapproved.[1][2] Fiona was divorced from Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza since 1965. She was a New Zealand–born fashion model. During their relationship, she was forty years old and Onassis was twenty-four. According to British author Peter Evans, he also had an affair in the South of France with Odile Rodin, the widow of playboy Porfirio Rubirosa (1909–1965).

Onassis died on January 23, 1973 at the age of 24, from injuries sustained the previous day when his Piaggio P.136L-2 amphibious airplane that he was a passenger of crashed at Ellinikon International Airport in Athens.[4] Onassis instructing a potential new pilot of the plane, Donald McCusker, an American, at the time of the crash, in his role as President of Olympic Aviation. Onassis and McCusker were accompanied by Donald McGregor, Onassis's regular pilot, who was recovering from an eye infection.[5] A few seconds after takeoff from runway 33, the plane's right wing dropped and stayed down, and crashed shortly after losing balance, in a flight lasting no more than 15 seconds.[4] McCusker and the other pilot both suffered serious injuries in the crash.[6] The trio had planned to practice amphibious landings between the Saronic Gulf islands of Aegina and Poros after takeoff.[4]

The day after the crash, Alexander's father, Aristotle Onassis, came from New York to the hospital where Alexander was being treated, with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the couple were accompanied by an American neurosurgeon.[4] and Alexander's mother, Athina Livanos, arrived from Switzerland with her husband, Stavros Niarchos.[6] Aristotle had also flown the English brain neurosurgeon Alan Richardson from London to Athens, Richardson had told Onassis that Alexander stood no chance of survival.[4]

Aristotle Onassis considered having his son's body cryogenically frozen with the Life Extension Society, but was persuaded against it, and it was embalmed by Desmond Henley,[7] and buried next to the chapel on his private Ionian island of Skorpios.[4]

Reports into the crash by the Greek Air Force and an independent investigator, hired by Onassis, the Englishman Alan Hunter, concluded that it had occurred as a result of the reversing of the aileron connecting cables during the installation of a new control column.[4] This cause was disputed by McGregor who believed that the wake turbulence from an Air France Boeing 727 that had taken off before them had caused the crash.[4]

Less than a month after Onassis's death, McCusker had manslaughter proceedings initiated against him by the public prosecutor of Athens in connection with the crash.[8] Six people were also charged over Onassis's death in January 1974, with their indictment indicating that faulty controls had been fitted to his plane.[9] In December 1974, in a paid advertisement, Aristotle Onassis announced his offering of a $1,000,000 reward ($4.78 million as of 2014) for proof that Alexander's death had been as a result of "deliberate action" as opposed to the cause of negligence, the conclusion reached by the official inquiry.[10][11] All charges relating to the crash were later dropped, and McCusker was awarded $800,000 in 1978 by Olympic Airways, some three years after Aristotle Onassis's death.[4] Onassis had refused to believe that his son's death was an accident, believing it was due to the machinations of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Greek military junta leader Georgios Papadopoulos.[4]


The Alexander S. Onassis Foundation awards scholarships to Greek students to study abroad and funds a number of philanthropic projects. The Foundation also runs a multibillion-dollar empire consisting of a small shipping fleet, real estate and securities assets.[12] Named after Aristotle's son, Aristotle created it as a charitable foundation, based in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, in 1973. The main offices are in Athens.


  1. ^ a b c d Hutchins, Chris; Peter Thompson (September 1999). Athina: The Last Onassis (new ed.). Blake Publishers. ISBN 978-1-85782-381-3. 
  2. ^ a b Speiser, Stuart (August 1, 2005). The Deadly Sins of Aristotle Onassis Story (1st ed.). ACW Press. ISBN 978-1-932124-62-0. 
  3. ^ a b Leigh, Wendy (March 2000). Prince Charming: The John F. Kennedy, Jr. Story (1st ed.). New York: New American Library. ISBN 0-451-20080-2. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Evans 1987, pp. 270
  5. ^ "Mr Alexander Onassis.", The Times, London, 24 January 1973, pg. 18
  6. ^ a b Mario Modiano. "Onassis son dies from air crash injuries.", The Times, London, 24 January 1973, pg. 10
  7. ^ "In Memoriam: Desmond C. Henley". Christopher Henley Limited. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "News in Brief.", The Times, London, 13 February 1973, pg. 6
  9. ^ "News in Brief.", The Times, London, 19 January 1974, pg. 6
  10. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  11. ^ "Onassis reward for proof on son's fatal crash.", The Times, London, 24 December 1974, pg. 1
  12. ^ Onassis Foundation (official website) (Greek)