Are You A Billionaire Looking To Make A Deal? This Is The Guy You Call
(As posted in Forbes Magazine – January 21, 2014)
“You gotta meet Demetri while you’re in town.”
The text message had come from an entrepreneur and investor I knew. One of those guys with enviable and inexplicable links to business heroes and at least a couple household-name pop stars. So when he told me I had to meet with somebody while I was in San Francisco, well, at the very least my curiosity was piqued.
A few minutes later I get another text. This one from this Demetri character himself, giving me an address in tony Pacific Heights. I immediately hop in a cab. A bit of traffic later, I pull up to a tall residential building, guarded by a wrought-iron gate, a doorman, and an arc-shaped driveway filled with luxury automobiles.
As soon as the elevator door opened, I knew I wasn’t in the Mission anymore. Before me: A sprawling penthouse, ornately decorated with sculptures, columns, and chandeliers in a way that reminded me of a Vegas casino—or Biff’s penthouse in the dystopian timeline from Back To The Future Part II. A labyrinth of rooms seemed to go on forever, and surrounding it all was wraparound terrace that fed spectacular views of the entire city—from the Golden Gate Bridge to downtown. It was dark, but I’m pretty sure I could see Alcatraz in the distance.
I walk through the ridiculous residence, using my ears to track down the person I was to meet with. I eventually find him in a dining room, where he is chatting with a well-dressed man.
As Demetri stands up, his smile, voice, and handshake give off the gracious vibe of an old friend. “Seth, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m just finishing up this meeting, and will be with you shortly.”
He introduces me to the person he’s talking to. I think I recognize the man, but can’t recall from where. Only later does Demetri fill in the gaps: We’re in the home of a billionaire fashion mogul. And the guy he was meeting with? A core member of one of the country’s most famous and beloved musical families.
“He wanted my help,” Demetri says.
Well played, I think.
“I connect people,” Demetri Argyropoulos, as his card reveals his full name to be, says. “I work for several dozen billionaires and companies. They call on me to introduce them to the people they need to meet.”
Oh boy, I have to write about this guy.
There’s a certain chutzpah to what Argyropoulos is doing that would raise the skeptic alert in any reasonable person. I mean, this is a man whose firm, Prima Worldwide, touts in bold letters on its homepage that “success starts with knowing the right people.”
Quite frankly, you can’t navigate the business or media worlds for very long before running into your share of snake oil salesmen, swindlers, and would-be startup “advisors” who promise… promise… that their irreplaceable, utterly unique relationships are valuable beyond measure. If only…
So when I was introduced to the concept of Demetri Argyropoulos, King of the Connectors, my defenses were up.
“Alright, let me show you what I do,” he tells me. “Who in the world are you looking to meet?”
I tell him about the startup I’m launching. “Always nice to meet people who might be able to help with that,” I tell him.
Within 48 hours, my inbox has a half-dozen intros to the sorts of boldface business names who fill this magazine. Industry gurus and gatekeepers.
“These are your new mentors,” he tells me.
“An intro from Demetri goes a long way in my book,” one of them writes me back.
Wait a second: Who is this guy?
Argyropoulos has been at this game for a long time.
“I worked for a very, very wealthy man when I was 18 or 19 in Beverly Hills who ran hundreds of millions of dollars,” he says. “It was there that I realized the value of relationships and the power of trust. And that when you have trust with somebody, just how fast things happen.”
Today, Argyropoulos says his Prima Worldwide business attaches its name to 16 offices in 13 different countries, though these affiliates operate with different levels of involvement from the mother ship. “These are either owned offices where we have full-time staff, or they’re partnerships where they use our brand and our reputation for their suite of offerings of their own advisory businesses,” he says.
His business, which began in 1999, has also shifted away from simply building relationships, to what he describes as “commercializing technologies” in companies that his firm invests in.
“My core business is taking mature technologies and marrying them with seasoned operators,” he says. “We bring in strategic operators, board members and these types of relationships to really create a tipping point for that company’s technology or product to be commercialized in the mainstream.”
Interesting. What’s an example?
“Right now, we’re in the process of selling a $100 million-plus oil shale gas land to one of the billionaires we work with, from pretty much the most reputable individual name in the oil industry,” Argyropoulos says. “We provided the trusted relationship that took us years to build, and we gave them $100 to $200 million of business at the end of the day. And that was just a phone call. So you can understand how it kind of cascades into a much bigger business.”
I can. Especially when I look at his website’s list of current and past corporate clients. Yeah, I’ve heard of them. There’s Red Bull, Ericsson, Saatchi & Saatchi, Clinton Global Initiative, Twitter; plus a slew of smaller companies.
I click a tab that says “References”. The very first link is a glowing letter from Kay Koplovitz, the legendary media executive and entrepreneur who launched the USA Network. Below that, similar notes from former California Governor Gray Davis and a handful of other names that spark at least passing recognition.
Again: Who is this guy?
I ask around. Start to talking to his friends and colleagues. Trying to get a sense of who I’m dealing with. Maybe he buttered them up with business connections or something, but best I can tell, he appears to be the most popular person I’d never heard of. Like the cool kid at your high school who you really want to be a jerk, but actually ends up being really nice.
“Demetri is just likable—and incredibly at ease talking to people,” says Hans Sicat, president of the Philippine Stock Exchange. “He’s one of the best networkers I’ve ever met.”
“He, quite simply, has an amazing network of trusted people who can get things done,” says Scott Mullen, senior managing director at MFI Capital, LLC and a friend of Argyropoulos.
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