John Catsimatidis

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John Catsimatidis
Catsimatidis in 2011
Born (1948-09-07) September 7, 1948 (age 73)
Nisyros, Greece
EducationNew York University
Political candidate
Political partyRepublican
Board member ofOwner of Gristedes Foods
Owner of Hellenic Times Newspaper
Chairman of Red Apple Group
Chairman of United Refining Company
Margo Vondersaar Catsimatidis
(m. 1988)
Children2; including Andrea Catsimatidis

John A. Catsimatidis (born September 7, 1948) is an American billionaire businessman and radio talk show host. He is the owner, president, chairman, and CEO of Gristedes Foods, a grocery chain in Manhattan, and the Red Apple Group, a real estate and aviation company with about $2 billion in holdings in New York, Florida and Pennsylvania.[2] He is also the chairman and CEO of the Red Apple Group subsidiary United Refining Company.[3]

Catsimatidis hosts a Sunday morning talk-radio show on a number of stations along the east coast and Florida, including Washington DC, and hosts a live radio program which airs Wednesdays during drive time in the New York City metro area.[4] He entered radio station ownership in 2019 with his acquisition of WABC (AM) in New York City.[5]

Catsimatidis was the runner-up to the Republican nomination for mayor of New York City in the 2013 election.

Early life and education[]

John Catsimatidis was born on the Greek island of Nisyros on September 7, 1948.[2] He came to the United States with his parents when he was six months old.[2] The family moved to West Harlem, where Catsimatidis grew up.[6] Catsimatidis' father had been a lighthouse operator in Greece but worked as a busboy in New York.[6] Catsimatidis graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1966.[6] He received a congressional nomination to West Point, but chose to study electrical engineering at New York University instead.[6]

While in college, Catsimatidis worked for the uncle of a friend, Tony, in a small supermarket on 137th Street which Tony and his uncle owned.[6] While Catsimatidis was still in college, Tony sold his half of the store to Catsimatidis.[6] Catsimatidis completed four years of college, but dropped out eight credits short of graduating.[2]

Business career[]

In 1971, Catsimatidis opened his first store, at Broadway and 99th Street.[6] Shortly thereafter, he purchased another grocery store on 87th street just west of Broadway, naming it Red Apple. Among his business innovations were staying open late seven days a week, offering free delivery, and cashing checks for customers.[6]

Catsimatidis has said that by the time he was 24 years old, "I built up ten stores and the business was doing $25 million a year, and I was personally earning a million dollars a year."[6] By the summer of 1981, Red Apple had 27 stores in the Bronx and Manhattan, with annual sales of around $40 million.[6] These grew to $110 million in sales in 1985.[6]

In 1986, Red Apple purchased 36 Gristedes supermarkets and 11 affiliated Charles & Co. specialty-food stores from the Southland Corporation.[6] In 2009, it was reported that Catsimatidis's main holdings included 50 Gristedes supermarkets, 371 gas stations in three states, $500 million in real estate, and an expanding oil business.[6]

In 1986, Catsimatidis acquired United Refining Co., the owner of gasoline refineries in Pennsylvania and Alabama.[6] In October 2009, Forbes magazine reported that United Refining Energy Corp., a publicly traded special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) sponsored by United Refining, was purchasing "privately held Chaparral Energy in a deal worth roughly $1.6 billion."[7] However, United Refining Energy Corp. shareholders did not approve the deal and it was terminated in December 2009.[8]

Kwik Fill sign, January 2013

In 2008, Catsimatidis became engaged in efforts to take over SemGroup LP, a bankrupt oil, gas, and asphalt trading, storage and transportation company, headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Catsimatidis gained control over a majority of the company's management committee, but his efforts were met by opposition from the company's existing management, who argued for selling off at least some of the company's assets, while Catsimatidis wanted to keep the company together.[9] In February 2009, Catsimatidis was sued by a group of SemGroup executives, who sought the removal of Catsimatidis and his allies from the committee.[10] In July Catsimatidis reached a settlement with SemGroup, pursuant to which he acquired a piece of SemGroup's asphalt business and dropped his competing plan for the company's proposed reorganization.[11][12]

In 2015, the Red Apple Group ranked 156th on Forbes magazine's list of "America's largest private companies", with revenue of $3 billion and 8,000 employees. (This compares to its 2008 and 2009 rank, both at #100, 2010 at #78, 2011 at 98th, and 2012 at 97th).[13]

On June 26, 2019, Catsimatidis entered into an agreement to purchase radio station WABC (AM) from Cumulus Media for $12.5 million in cash under the "Red Apple Media" name; Catsimatidis also indicated with the purchase his intention to acquire additional stations in the New York City market to complement the conservative talk radio formatted station. The WABC sale was approved by the FCC on March 2, 2020.[5]

Catsimatidis is a minority investor in the political newspaper and website The Hill as referenced on the website's articles which mention him.[14][15]

Political activities before mayoral campaigns[]

Catsimatidis and his wife have made contributions to a variety of both Republican and Democratic campaigns. Among Republicans, the Catsimatidises contributed over $60,000 to the Republican National Committee, and have also made significant contributions to the National Republican Congressional Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, Mitt Romney, Eric Cantor, Olympia Snowe, Richard Lugar, and others. Among Democrats handful of Democratic campaigns, including to Carolyn B. Maloney, Charlie Rangel, and Jerrold Nadler.[16] In local New York City races, Catsimatidis has given to Bill de Blasio (while he was a city councilman), Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Cyrus Vance, Jr., and Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro.[17] In the 1992 Democratic presidential primaries, Catsimatidis contributed $150,000 to the campaign of fellow Greek American Paul Tsongas.[18]

Catsimatidis put on a fundraiser in 2006 with Michael Bloomberg for Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to support his third party run as an independent after Lieberman lost the Democratic primary nomination for reelection to the Senate.[19]

Catsimatidis has been described as a "longtime",[20] "loyal",[21] and "high-level Clinton donor".[22] Catsimatidis donated a significant sum to the Clinton Presidential Center, thought to be between $100,000 and $500,000.[23] Catsimatidis was a member of Hillary Clinton's finance team during her 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying in February 2007 of Clinton, "She's unstoppable. She's got such a machine."[24] Catsimatidis hosted a number of fundraising dinners with Bill Clinton at his home in New York that in total raised well in excess of $750,000 for Hillary Clinton's campaign.[20] Catsimatidis has said that he is friends with Bill Clinton and that the former president "often" has flown in one of Catsimatidis' two airplanes.[2] Hillary Clinton attended Catsimatidis' daughter's wedding.[2]

In 2015, press reports indicated that Catsimatidis donated the use of a chartered jet valued at $70,000 to the Republican primary campaign of Scott Walker.[25]


2009 mayoral campaign[]

A donor to Bill Clinton during the Clinton years, Catsimatidis, while still enrolled as a Democrat, considered becoming a candidate in the 2009 mayoral election as a Republican.[26][27] In May 2007, he was reported to be "systematically wooing local Republicans", attending various Republican fundraisers in Queens and Staten Island and stating that he would "probably have a press conference" to announce his intentions "sooner rather than later" and would consider spending between $30 million and $40 million if he ran.[27]

In 2008, Catsimatidis was viewed as a potential mayoral candidate.[28] By July 2008, Catsimatidis formed an exploratory committee.[29] In 2009, Catsimatidis spent nearly $300,000, much of it on polls and consultants, to explore a candidacy. He said he only agreed to drop out after Bloomberg informed him of his plans to seek a third term.[26] Once the city term limits law was changed to allow Bloomberg to run for a third term, Catsimatidis quietly withdrew.[26][17]

2013 mayoral campaign[]

During the spring of 2012, Catsimatidis described his dismay over the quality of the announced as well as the presumed candidates. He suggested that he would support New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, but when Kelly repeatedly denied any intention to run, Catsimatidis expressed his own interest.[30]

In December 2012, Catsimatidis established an exploratory committee to consider running for mayor.[26][31] On January 3, 2013, he filed paperwork with the New York City Campaign Finance Board .[32] Shortly afterward, he told the New York Post that he had just written his own check for one million dollars to seed his campaign.[33]

Catsimatidis made his official announcement on January 29, 2013, vowing to be "a leader for Harlem and Wall Street."[34] He stated "I'm not a Mike Bloomberg billionaire. I'm not wearing a $5,000 suit."[35] Through May 15, Catsimatidis (a self-financed candidate) had spent $880,000 on the campaign, mostly on television and radio ads, but also on billboards and items including lip balm and groceries.[36] He hired a campaign consulting firm, Millennial Strategies LLC, that mostly works on Democratic campaigns.[37]

On a December 13 appearance on Inside City Hall, Catsimatidis compared raising taxes on the wealthy to how "Hitler punished the Jews".[38]

Catsimatidis expressed support for the New York City stop-and-frisk program, and two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing, his campaign ran a radio ad attacking "career politicians want to end stop and frisk and cut the NYPD's powers of surveillance."[39] At a candidates' forum Catsimatidis suggested that "a robot" or other future technology would make the stop-and-frisk program unnecessary in the future, but stated that until that time the program should continue.[40]

At campaign events in April 2013, Catsimatidis claimed that he could have beaten Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election[41] and got into a contentious exchange with various Republican audience members, telling one to "go bullshit yourself if you want!"[42][43]

On May 13, the New York Post ran a story on Catsimatidis' comment in a 1989 Crain's New York Business profile in which he stated "I'm a Manhattanite. I feel sorry for those people who aren't." Catsimatidis's remark was criticized by Republican Guy Molinari, the former Staten Island borough president and congressman, and Brooklyn Democratic councilman Lew Fidler, who called Catsimatidis a "Manhattan elitist".[44]

Among the "off-the-cuff—and off-beat—policy proposals" that Catsimatidis suggested during the campaign included giving police tricycles to improve mobility, allowing casinos in hotels, and launching a program to give free pet food to people who adopt homeless animals.[45] Catsimatidis's economic proposals include a revival of the 1964 New York World's Fair.[26] The New York Times reported that Catsimatidis "struck an odd note when discussing education policy, expressing unease about the makeup of his daughter's graduating class from New York University's Stern School of Business," stating that "I think close to 480 of the 580 were Asian — Asian including India. And, it was scary. And then when you think about it, we’re going to deport most of these kids."[26]

Catsimatidis called for street vendors to be limited to certain areas, and prohibiting setting up within 300–500 feet of stores selling the same products, complaining at a candidates' forum that "We have cart people right in front of our doorstep. They're selling bananas for half price in front of my own stores. That is wrong."[46]

In the September 2013 Republican primary, Catsimatidis lost to Joseph J. Lhota, receiving 24,864 votes to Lhota's 32,236 votes.[47] Catsimatidis did carry the borough of Staten Island.[48]

Catsimatidis could have chosen to contest the general election on two other ballot lines, either that of the Liberal Party of New York and of a third-party line he created in summer 2013, but two days after his primary, he announced that he would withdraw from the race.[49]

Since 2013[]

Catsimatidis contributed to Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign,[50] and is a vocal Trump supporter.[51]

The New York Times reported in October 2020 that Catsimatidis and his family run the Manhattan Republican Party; his daughter Andrea is the chairwoman,[51] and Catsimatidis, his wife Margo Catsimatidis, and his son John Catsimatidis Jr. are vice-presidents.[52] Between February and July 2020, Catsimatidis contributed $50,000 of the party's $52,000 of income.[51]

Catsimatidis has said he is considering running in the 2021 New York City mayoral election.[53] He originally suggested he'd run as a Democrat, but retracted that and suggested he'd either run again as a Republican or as a member of the Liberal Party.[54] Following a slew of scandals plaguing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, such as sexual harassment allegations (a contributing factor that has led to his resignation) and a federal investigation into COVID-19 deaths within nursing homes, Catsimatidis pivoted toward a potential gubernatorial run in 2022. If he runs, Catsimatidis said he would run on both the Republican and Liberal tickets.[55]

Personal life[]

On October 2, 1988, Catsimatidis married Margaret "Margo" Vondersaar at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York;[56] the two had met when she became his secretary in 1972.[2] Catsimatidis' first marriage ended in divorce;[56] he has stated that he was "sometimes" together with Margo while still married to his first wife.[2] At the time of their marriage, Margo led her own advertising agency, MCV Advertising Associates in New York, and was president of The Hellenic Times.[56]

Catsimatidis and his wife Margo have two children, Andrea and John Jr.[2] Andrea married Christopher Cox, grandson of former President Richard Nixon, on June 4, 2011, at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, "before a church packed with family members and political powerhouses."[57][58] Catsimatidis said that he spent "in excess of $1 million" on the wedding.[2] Andrea Catsimatidis and Cox divorced in 2014.[59][60]

In the 2015 Forbes 400 "richest people in America" list, Catsimatidis ranked 182nd, with a personal net worth estimated at $3.4 billion; in the Forbes list of global billionaires, he ranked #577.[61]


He is one of the largest donors to the G&P Foundation for Cancer Research[62] He founded and was co-chairman of Brooklyn Tech Endowment Foundation, benefiting his alma mater.[63] Catsimatidis funds the John Catsimatidis Scholarship Fund at the New York University Stern School of Business, which has since 1988 awarded two scholarships each year.[63] Catsimatidis was for five years president of the Manhattan Council of the Boy Scouts of America.[63] He has been on the board of directors of the Police Athletic League of New York City,[63] and the Drum Major Institute.[64]

Other organizations with which Catsimatidis has been active are the National Kidney Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Young Men's Philanthropic League, and Alzheimer's Foundation of America.[63] Catsimatidis was the vice-chairman of the Ellis Island Awards Foundation of the National Ethnic Coalition Organization (NECO), and received an Ellis Island Medal of Honor from that organization.[65]


  1. ^ "John Catsimatidis". Forbes. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Elkies, Lauren (August 1, 2011). "John Catsimatidis". The Real Deal.
  3. ^ "Fleet Services". URC. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  4. ^ "John Catsimatidis Gets His Own Radio Show". Mar 13, 2014. Retrieved Sep 25, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "John Catsimatidis acquires 77 WABC radio for $12.5 million". New York Post. June 27, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Robert Levin, John of All Trades - An Interview with John Catsimatidis (April 1, 2009). New York Enterprise Report.
  7. ^ Catsimatidis To Buy Chaparral Energy, Forbes, October 12, 2009.
  8. ^ Catsimatidis company ends Chaparral quest, Tulsa World, December 14, 2009.
  9. ^ Rod Walton, "Business brawler?" Tulsa World, January 25, 2009.
  10. ^ SemGroup executives sue Catsimatidis; SemGroup Energy Partners also warns of asphalt meltdown, Tulsa World, February 11, 2009.
  11. ^ Rod Walton, SemGroup suitor drops out: The colorful New York billionaire settles for asphalt assets, Tulsa World (July 21, 2009).
  12. ^ Catsimatidis to support SemGroup reorganization, Reuters (July 20, 2009).
  13. ^ #156 Red Apple Group, Forbes (last accessed November 12, 2015).
  14. ^ "The Hill's owner seeks potential buyers, investors". POLITICO. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  15. ^ Williams, Jordan (2020-12-13). "Dershowitz: Supreme Court ruling shows 'you can't count on the judiciary' if you're Team Trump". TheHill. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  16. ^ Federal campaign contributions, reported by the Center for Responsive Politics
  17. ^ a b Celeste Katz, The End of Catsimatidis For Mayor Archived 2010-05-10 at the Wayback Machine (May 20, 2009), New York Daily News.
  18. ^ Greek-Americans Reconsider Tsongas (March 2, 1992), The State, 5A.
  19. ^ Jill Gardiner, Bloomberg to Host Fund-Raiser for Lieberman (September 18, 2006), New York Sun.
  20. ^ a b Associated Press, In fundraising sweepstakes, expectations high for Clinton (March 16, 2007).
  21. ^ Patrick Healy, Obama Meets Party Donors in New York (December 5, 2006), New York Times.
  22. ^ Patrick Healy and Eric Konigsberg, How to Socialize With an Ex-President? Finance His Good Deeds (October 28, 2006), New York Times.
  23. ^ Josh Gerstein, Saudis, Arabs Funneled Millions to President Clinton's Library (November 22, 2004), New York Sun.
  24. ^ Calvin Woodward and Nancy Benac, Clinton goes from inevitable nominee to on the ropes (May 11, 2008), Associated Press.
  25. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (31 July 2015). "Super PACs Spent Millions Before Candidates Announced Filings Show". New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  26. ^ a b c d e f Michael M. Grynbaum, Again, Supermarket Mogul Weighs Running for Mayor (December 31, 2012), New York Times.
  27. ^ a b Celeste Katz, Catsimatidis Gets Serious? Archived 2013-06-30 at (May 25, 2007), New York Daily News
  28. ^ Peter Kiefer, Bloomberg Could Clash With Lauder (April 14, 2008), New York Sun.
  29. ^ Grace Rauh, Catsimatidis Readies For 2009 Mayoral Run (July 31, 2008).
  30. ^ "John Catsimatidis, NY 1 interview, June 2, 2012". YouTube. 2012-06-05. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  31. ^ Campanile, Carl (2012-12-04). "'Mr. Gristedes' eyes race | New York Post". Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  32. ^ Jonathan Lemire, Former MTA chief Lhota in secret meeting with GOP rival Castimatidis to scout out Republican mayoral primary prospects: source (January 4, 2013), New York Post.
  33. ^ Carl Campanile, Catsimatidis starts mayoral campaign with $1M of own money (January 14, 2013), New York Post.
  34. ^ Hunter Walker, Mayoral Hopeful John Catsimatidis Vows to Be a Leader "For Harlem and for Wall Street" (January 29, 2013), Politicker.
  35. ^ Hunter Walker, John Catsimatidis: 'I'm Not a Mike Bloomberg Billionaire', Observer (January 29, 2017).
  36. ^ Jill Colvin, John Catsimatidis Spending Big on Billboards, Lip Balm and Candy (May 15, 2013), Politicker.
  37. ^ Colin Campbell, John Catsimatidis Hires a Democratic Firm (April 1, 2013), Politicker.
  38. ^ Colin Campbell and Hunter Walker, John Catsimatidis Explains Why Taxing the Rich Is Like Nazism and More (December 14, 2012), Politicker; Chris Bragg, GOP chairmen react to Catsimatidis' 'Nazi' comment (February 11, 2013), Crain's New York Business.
  39. ^ Celeste Katz, NY Mayor Hopeful John Catsimatidis Goes To Air With Terrorism-Focused Radio Spot (April 29, 2013), New York Daily News.
  40. ^ Ross Barkan, John Catsimatidis Suggests Robotic Solution to Stop-and-Frisk Controversy (March 22, 2013), Politicker.
  41. ^ Colin Campbell, John Catsimatidis Says He Could Have Defeated Barack Obama (April 29, 2012), Politicker.
  42. ^ Colin Campbell, John Catsimatidis Holds Contentious Court in Brooklyn (April 28, 2012), Politicker.
  43. ^ Adam Martin, Who Yelled It Better? "Bullsh*t" As Screamed by Chris Christie and John Catsimatidis (May 1, 2013), New York.
  44. ^ Carl Campanile, "Cats" caught in borough "bias" (May 13, 2013), New York Post.
  45. ^ Andrew Grossman, Mayoral Candidate Catsimatidis Doesn't Lack for Ideas: Republican Often Makes Off-the-Cuff—and Off-Beat—Policy Proposals (May 19, 2013), Wall Street Journal.
  46. ^ Erin Durkin, Mayoral hopeful Catsimatidis goes bananas over fruit carts (May 1, 2013), New York Daily News.
  47. ^ September 2013 Republican primary election results, New York City Board of Elections.
  48. ^ Celeste Katz, As Joe Lhota Courts Democrats, Brooklyn GOP Chief Rallies the Party Faithful, Daily News (October 2, 2013).
  49. ^ "Catsimatidis Bows Out of Race for Mayor - Metropolis - WSJ". 2013-09-13. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  50. ^ "Image# 201712119089166482". Federal Elections Commission. December 11, 2017. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
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  52. ^ "Officers and Staff". Official Web Site. Manhattan Republican Party. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  53. ^ Phillips, Morgan (14 January 2021). "Billionaire Trump donor Catsimatidis mulling NYC mayoral run as a Democrat". Fox News. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  54. ^ Durkin, Erin (February 14, 2021). "Catsimatidis won't join Democratic race for mayor". Politico. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  55. ^ Mohr, Ian (March 4, 2021). "John Catsimatidis considering run for New York governor amid Cuomo scandal". New York Post. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  56. ^ a b c John Catsimatidis Wed To Margo Vondersaar (October 3, 1988), New York Times.
  57. ^ Cara Buckley, Andrea Catsimatidis and Christopher Cox (June 16, 2011), New York Times.
  58. ^ Super wedding snubs McCain (May 23, 2011), New York Post.
  59. ^ Nuzzi, Olivia (2019-07-23). "A Lobster Dinner With the 'Billionaire Heiress' Chair of the Manhattan GOP". Intelligencer. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  60. ^ Levine, Jon (2019-07-06). "How GOP crusader Andrea Catsimatidis is tackling the risky business of NY politics". New York Post. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  61. ^ The World's Billionaires: John Catsimatidis.
  62. ^ Mariah's Movie: Labor Day Release Beckons (April 13, 2001), Fox News.
  63. ^ a b c d e Catsimatidis Is Greek Independence Parade Chair Archived 2016-06-03 at the Wayback Machine (January 31, 2007), Queens Gazette.
  64. ^ John Catsimatidis, Drum Major Institute.
  65. ^ "John A. Catsimatidis". Archived from the original on June 16, 2007. Retrieved Sep 25, 2019.
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