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Nicholas Zoullas, Greek shipping magnate and art collector, disinherits his sons


It’s a big family drama about the Greek merchant navy.

Nicholas Zoullas, a Greek shipping magnate and art hoarder, disinherited two of his sons, one of whom accused him of stealing a $4million Monet, according to court records.

Zoullas, 84 – a globetrotting Upper East Side and Southampton man who was worth untold millions and bounced between New York and Switzerland – died Christmas week 2021, according to an obituary. He left behind five children from two marriages.

Zoullas ran his family shipping business, Norland Shipping & Trading Corp., and served on various committees and boards at Harvard, he and his sons’ alma mater, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He bequeathed everything to his second wife, Susan Bates, according to his will filed in March in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court. The will does not provide for his first wife, Marianna Zoullas.

“After careful consideration and deliberation, I have decided not to give anything to my sons, ALEXIS ZOULLAS and SOPHOCLES ZOULLAS,” according to Zoullas’ will, signed in 2018. The couple were Zoullas’ sons from his first marriage. He has three children with Bates – according to the will, they are to be cared for by her.

Alexis Zoullas, right, and his brother Sophocle Zoullas testified that they had a fractured relationship with their father.
Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Both sides of the family issued dueling obituaries in January – one of them omitting any mention of Bates and his children with Zoullas.

But Zoullas – whose wealth included real estate, art, private companies and securities – and Sophocles fell out in the early 2000s, when the son left Norland, before striking out on his own, has said Sophocles in a 2017 deposition. Nicholas was “upset” after Sophocles left, Alexis said in a 2017 affidavit.

The brothers – who went on to found Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc., now an $800million company – had a “fractured” or “difficult” relationship with their father, according to court documents.

They approached him at Alexis’ wedding in 2007 with concerns about their art, which was then in a family warehouse in Switzerland. He replied that “he felt there was no need to take any action since we were a family and he assured me that there would be no disputes that would jeopardize our works of art. “, according to court documents.

But Zoullas reportedly transferred the Monet to Naxos Art Inc., one of his cash-strapped British Virgin Islands companies for $900,000. Naxos quickly sold it to Christie’s for $3.9 million, according to court documents.

Nicholas Zoullas, Greek shipping magnate and art collector, disinherits his sons
Sophocles Zoullas, right, was removed from the will, which was signed in 2018.
Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The painting – “Sainte-Adresse” – is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art.

Sophocles alleged in state court that his grandfather, Sophocles N. Zoullas of Lausanne, Switzerland, bought the painting for him as a gift in 1995.

“Dare I say I was his favorite grandson,” Sophocles said in the deposition.

Alexis also alleged that her father fled with less valuable works in storage. Both cases have been settled.

Zoullas lived with Bates in a $4.3 million penthouse at the white-gloved Knickerbocker on East 72nd St, records show. The family also owns four properties in Southampton through various limited liability companies with a total market value of $24.6 million.

Nicholas Zoullas, Greek shipping magnate and art collector, disinherits his sons
Alexis Zoullas and Chris Cuomo attend the John Varvatos Madison Avenue Grand Opening on April 3, 2014 in New York City.
Getty Images for John Varvatos

The flap over the Monet wasn’t the last time Zoullas got tangled up in court over art.

In 2016, he accused a mistress of stealing his $15 million “erotic art” collection, which he stored with her near Palm Beach, according to W Magazine.

The family descends from Panagiotis Pantaleon, a legendary 19th century Greek shipowner.

Nicholas Zoullas, Greek shipping magnate and art collector, disinherits his sons
Dueling obituaries were posted for the father in January.
Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan

In a joint statement, Sophocles and Alexis Zoullas said: “We mourn the loss of our father who lived an amazing and complicated life. Although we respect and love him, we disagree with many of the his choices, especially those he made later in life when he was sadly in decline.

Zoullas’ estate attorney did not return a message. Bates did not return a message.


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