Shipping man and Ex-Goldman Sachs associate to lead Greek main opposition party

Former Goldman Sachs associate and political novice Stefanos Kasselakis on Sunday was elected leader of Greece’s leftist Syriza party, the country’s main opposition, which is hoping for a comeback after a heavy defeat in a national election.

Mr Kasselakis, 35 years old, who describes himself as a self-made shipping entrepreneur, was racing against Ms Effie Achtsioglou, 38 years old, a lawyer and former labour minister.

As expected, after the result of the first Sunday, Stefanos Kasselakis gathers 56.69% and Effie Achtsioglou 43.31%.

Kasselakis said after the elections of left-wing Syriza party: “I am not a phenomenon, I am the voice of a society”.

“I will never betray you. Tomorrow the hard work begins. In wars the first is first and the second is nothing. But among comrades, the first is first and the second is first,” the new president of SYRIZA said yesterday outside the party’s offices in Koumoundourou, Greece in his address after the election result was announced.

Mr Kasselakis, who has a rich academic CV and a successful career in the shipping industry, has little political experience, but his victory has shaken his conservative political opponents who see him as a threat.

Kasselakis emerged as the frontrunner of the first round of voting, running a slick social media campaign promising to end New Democracy’s hold on power.

However, his candidacy split Syriza supporters ahead of the vote, many of whom said his profile did not fit the traditional left.

He is a 35-year-old Greek citizen who was raised in the United States, a former Goldman Sachs associate, and a volunteer on the staff of then Senator and now US President, Joe Biden, for the 2008 Presidential Elections.

In the social media with a post in twitter earlier this month Mr. Kasselakis gave answers regarding his business activities in shipping.

It is worth reminding that in 2015 and at the age of 26, he started his independent business career in the wider shipping sector.

“The company I founded does not belong to Nomikos. I made it from scratch and made 70m profit for my investors. All vessels were sold according to the business plan, and tankers (and it’s so easy to find they were sold),” he said.

In late August, a few days after presenting a list of proposals for the party, Kasselakis released a video recounting his life and his vision. The video went viral, transforming him into a serious contender for the party leadership.

In 2009, at the age of 21, Mr. Kasselakis in the midst of the financial crisis, as he said in the video, found a job at Goldman Sachs and saw up close what capital is.

“Buying someone else’s labor cheaply. How much arrogance money brings. That’s why I left this job. I took out a loan on a personal guarantee, and three years later I managed to get into shipping. Risk management 24 hours a day.

“After a lot of sweating, I took a big financial breath. But there is another breath, much more important: It is the breath of freedom,” he said.

Experts say not being a politician will hamper Kasselakis’ efforts to oppose Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

It also remains to be seen how some of the left-wing voters will take to someone who boasts of his business acumen and mastery of several languages, as he speaks fluently English, German, French and Spanish.