From a rundown suburb of Nicosia and the idyllic setting of Sysklipos in Kyrenia, where he first started out, John Christodoulou forged an international real estate empire, with recognition now at its peak. The self made Cypriot billionaire manages hotels from hospitality companies such as Marriott, Hilton, Park Inn and Radisson Blu. All this fame however has not changed the deep affection for his homeland and the pain he feels about its continued occupation.
He always enjoys a shot of zivania and recently celebrated his beloved team Omonia, winning the Cyprus football cup. John Christodoulou is a well known philanthropist, delivering dozens of projects and helping out in improving the lives of vulnerable children, through his ‘Yiannis Christodoulou’ charitable foundation. Only recently he managed to raise more than 300 thousand euro that will go towards infrastructure for special schools in Cyprus. John Christodoulou will received the Monaco Goodwill Ambassador award from Prince Albert the 2nd this evening, an hour afforded to a Cypriot for the first time, during a Gala dinner at the Le Les Terrasses Midi, Hotel Hermitage. John Christodoulou was interviewed by Phileleftheros.
- Goodwill Ambassador of the Principality of Monaco. What exactly is this award? How and by what criteria is it awarded?
- I am told that in order to receive a Goodwill Ambassador Award, one needs to have shown outstanding merit in their field, anything from diplomacy, politics, governmental positions, business, culture, sports, science and so on. The final decision is always made by the Honorary Presidency of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco.
- What does it mean to you? Did you expect such an honor?
- It is gratifying to be recognized and it is very much appreciated. I do not expect awards from anyone, of course.
- Can it in any way strengthen the position and influence of Cyprus? If so, in what areas?
- Yes, I think it strengthens our island by the fact that I am a Cypriot. It is good for foreign society to acknowledge Cyprus and the people of the island.
What do you envision and wish for Cyprus, as a person who has lived in many countries? What changes do you think should be made in our country?
- My biggest wish is to find a solution with the Turkish government. We cannot accept having an illegal trespasser on our island. The changes can only be made from the top of our government and in cooperation with the support of other international countries to work with the US.
- What would you advise young people? Can one succeed and make a great fortune while staying in Cyprus?
- For sure 100% staying in Cyprus, yes anybody can succeed.
You need to be choosing a sector that you are happy with and which gives you enjoyment and you will naturally be successful. You must not forget that success is about being happy in life.
And If making money makes you happy go for it.
- You have said in the past that you did not go to university, as you were not made for studies and that the important thing for you was to gain experience in business. Do you think that today, more emphasis is placed on university knowledge and studies than on experience? Is there a profession that you consider to be the future?
- Most people have a different mindset. What works for someone else doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me. It is a big plus to go to university and get a degree. It is excellent for the CV. Personally, I wasn’t made for university, I always considered other professions, however, I do believe in sticking to what you are good at and what you enjoy.
- It is known that you entered the real estate industry by buying a small studio in the Finchley area of London. Was it difficult to evolve, create an empire and maintain it?
- Yes, I did start with a studio. In creating an empire, you need to take calculated and major risks and always have a vision of where you want to be in years to come. I still think of this every day. The bigger you get the easier it gets but you always have to have the attention to detail, otherwise, it can easily go wrong.
- Do you feel that you have reached the top? Did you fulfill your childhood or adult dreams?
- I do not feel I have reached the top. My dreams have always been bigger than what I have now and I am still dreaming. When you get to my age your dreams naturally change and now they are not all about involving money.
- As a businessman with great recognition and influence and in general as a person with great power, is there anything that scares you?
- Nothing scares me in business because I do my research before I enter into any situation / transaction. It is important to have caution with everything you do in life and every step you take. It’s simple just always do your homework.
- How do you experience fatherhood? Do you have creative time to spend with your family? Do you have a favorite family activity?
- My favorite family activity is to be somewhere in the middle of the sea. It is Important to be always around for your family and one of the biggest mistakes you can do as a father is to spoil your kids.
- Did you see the cup final with Omonia? There were rumors that you wanted to buy the club. Are you still interested in an opening in football or was it your love for the team that motivated you?
- I was at the final; it was an amazing atmosphere. We didn’t play very well. However, the result is what matters and we got the Cup.
Yes, I had intentions of purchasing Omonoia unfortunately in the end though the current owner changed his mind, and decided he did not want to sell.
- Since 2016 you have been very active with the charity “Yiannis Christodoulou Foundation”. What are your future plans for Cyprus?
- The Yiannis Christodoulou Foundation primarily focuses on underprivileged children. I want to do my best to improve their well-being, education, and sport facilities.
- Do you visit the schools yourself when you deliver the charities to them? Is it an important moment for you? How do children react? Do you single out any incident?
- I always try to visit every project that I do. It is a very important moment for me. It inspires me even more when I see happiness. The toughest incidents are when I visit the special needs schools and when I see children that are mistreated.