As a philanthropist he has donated more than £2 million to British athletics and theatre groups. Kulukundis was made an OBE for services to British sport in 1993, and knighted for services to British theatre and sport in 1998. He is married to British actress Susan Hampshire.
Elias George Kulukundis was born in 1932 at 26 Warbeck Street W2, the son of a Greek shipping family who had made their home in London. His parents moved to New York City when he was eight. Kulukundis was not an active sportsman and took the role of statistician, keeping score. He graduated from Salisbury School in 1950, and is now an Emeritus Trustee of the school. He changed his name by deed poll to Eddie Kulukundis on 23 September 1993.
The Kulukundis and Mavroleon families had formed the shipping company London & Overseas Freighters (LOF) in 1948. Kulukundis entered the shipping industry by working on tramp steamers in the Mediterranean. After the death of his uncle John Kulukundis in September 1978, Kulukundis joined the LOF board. The company suffered mounting losses, and after it had sold all but two of its ships and all shoreside assets, he resigned on 11 December 1985.
He rejoined the board of the much reduced company in 1988 following the death of company president Manuel Kulukundis, and also the death of his nephew, Minas Kulukundis, in the Lockerbie air disaster while flying to attend the funeral of his uncle and godfather Captain Nicholas Kulukundis. On 1 November 1997 LOF was sold to Frontline Freighters AB of Sweden and Kulukundis resigned from the board. He still holds positions with family company Company Rethymnis and Kulukundis Ltd, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1998.
A theatre impresario, Kulukundis started producing plays while resident in the United States. He co-produced the 1976 Tony award winning play Travesties by Tom Stoppard. Kulukundis later formed Knightsbridge Productions, with theatre artist/educator Jack Lynn.
In 1993, Kulukundis was part of a consortium which took over the struggling Duke of York's Theatre on St Martin's Lane. The consortium became the Ambassador Theatre Group, of which Kulukundis is presently Life President and a major share holder.
Kulukundis has given more than £2 million to British athletes over the last 25 years, including Steve Ovett, Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell, Roger Black, and Denise Lewis. Currently it is estimated that Kulukundis supports about 60 to 70 athletes.
The philanthropy started when he returned to the UK, and after a chance meeting with David Hemery. Through Harry Wilson, Steve Ovett's coach, Kulukundis received the names of several athletes who needed help. Every deal is recorded by his secretary because, theoretically, each one is only a loan. Among athletes Kulukundis has supported are:
- Roger Black – "'When I was out of action for two years and earning nothing, it was Eddie who helped me with my mortgage."
- Nick Buckfield
- Dwain Chambers – who had to move out of home, so Kulukundis funded his flat
- Linford Christie
- Sally Gunnell
- David Jenkins – the disgraced 400m runner returned the $800 lent to him in 1978, when Kulukundis visited Indianapolis in 1998 for the US trials
- Du'aine Ladejo
- Denise Lewis
- Dean Macey – Kulukundis provided Macey with an inexhaustible supply of free motor transport – Macey returned what remained of the car a few months later. On one occasion, the timelag between provision and destruction was no more than an afternoon. After three crashes, Macey gave up and Kulukundis funded his warm winter training instead
- Steve Ovett
- Fatima Whitbread
- Janine Whitlock
- Eugene Gilkes "It was Eddie's support that made it possible for me to continue through the trials and tribulations of injury for long enough to hobble to a Commonwealth Decathlon medal. And so many of the good things in life that have happened since have been as a direct result of this achievement. I will always be grateful"
- Mo Farah - Kulukundis paid the legal costs of Farah’s naturalisation as a British citizen to ensure he could pursue his international career.
- Brendan Reilly - "Eddie opened my eyes to more than sport. Through his generosity and kindness I experienced theatre, travel and developed lifelong friendships".
In November 1998 Kulukundis came second in the contest to become the first elected president of UK Athletics to former Olympic champion David Hemery. Kulukundis has served as chairman of the London Coaching Foundation, the Midland Coaching Foundation and Athletes Youth Performance; vice-president of UK Athletics; chairman of the British Athletic Field Event Charitable Trust; and as chairman and patron of the Belgrave Harriers athletics club
Kulukundis married the English actress Susan Hampshire in 1981. The couple live quietly on the outskirts of Bedford, England. Active on stage and screen until her early 70's, Hampshire gave up almost all acting opportunities after 2009 to care for her husband, who had developed dementia and type 2 diabetes.
- LOF-News: Kulukundis Family
- "About Us > Board of Trustees"[permanent dead link], Salisbury School. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- "House flag, London & Overseas Freighters Ltd (AAA0295)". Flags. National Maritime Museum. Archived from the original on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
- "Travesties". ibdb.com. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- Impresario who never recovered from being stage-struck
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- London Guardian, 22 May, 1998 Archived 28 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Longmore, Andrew (5 September 1999). "Athletics: Interview Sir Eddie Kulukundis – Gifts from Sir with". The Independent. London. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- "Athletics: Kulukundis funds French trip". The Independent. London.[dead link]
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- "Susan Hampshire talks about caring for her husband". Age UK. Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2019.