By Leslie Krowchenko, Special to the Hellenic News of America
Supporters of Penn State University are said to bleed blue and white in their devotion to the school and its sports teams.
For John Koudounis, the colors represent his dedication to Greece, its families, and its future.
Koudounis is CEO of Calamos Investments, a diversified global investment firm which has partnered with NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to form the Calamos Antetokounmpo Global Sustainable Equities Fund. He is also a founding board member of The Hellenic Initiative (THI), an international nonprofit that joins Diaspora Greeks and Philhellenes to invest in the country. He will be in Athens on June 5 and 6 for THI’s ATHINA23 Gala and the seventh annual Venture Fair, one of the organization’s major efforts to bring funding to Greece.
A graduate of Brown University, Koudounis’ degree in International Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs and Economics has driven his career. He amassed 28 years’ experience on Wall Street before joining Calamos in 2016 and has more than doubled its assets under management (AUM), from roughly $18 billion to over $36 billion (as of 1/31/23).
The firm and the Milwaukee Bucks’ star share the same goals of economic empowerment, financial education, and giving back, especially to young people in the community, and Koudounis, Antetokounmpo, and company founder John Calamos, Sr. rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange March 31 to promote the joint fund. The suite of ESG funds (portfolios of securities and bonds from companies that have included environmental, social, and governmental factors in their investment process) is publicly accessible to investors and follows ESG investment principles.
“It was our passion for family, community, and charity, particularly where we can advance important themes like economic empowerment and financial education for the younger generation, that allowed us to concept these sustainable funds that seek to deliver investment and societal return to its investors,” said Koudounis. “Creating a suite of sustainable funds in partnership with a global superstar and philanthropist like Giannis seemed like the next natural step in our continued path towards innovation.”
The fund’s portfolio management team invests in stocks it believes have high growth potential, using a combination of traditional financial analysis and their proprietary non-financial criteria to evaluate companies. These are factors that may indicate the companies considered for investment are delivering positive societal or environmental impact with their business models. The team feels this combination of analysis allows it to make better investment decisions and build more durable portfolios.
“This team adopted the concept of ESG before it was a coined term and was one of the first to manage a fossil-free fund in the United States,” said Koudounis. “It’s exciting to offer funds that are managed by one of the first to recognize its potential.”
The funds are available through mutual fund and ETF vehicles, enabling access by individual investors as well as institutions of all sizes. The ETF trades on the NYSE Arca under the ticker symbol SROI and is accessible to anyone with a trading account and as little as approximately $25 per share to invest. The mutual fund offers a US-specific strategy option for those who prefer a concentrated focus.
Antetokounmpo is a 50 percent co-owner and serves on the advisor’s board of directors. He will not make investment decisions, but will play a role in setting the direction of the fund and partnership’s mission, as well as shaping the joint venture’s targeted annual charitable contribution. The partnership has committed to donating up to 10 percent of its profits annually to charities that can advance its shared passion, including financial literacy, a core focus and theme.
THI has a similar commitment. Founded in 2012 by members of the global Greek and Philhellene communities, the initiative seeks to respond to the worsening economic crisis and help shape Greece’s long-term recovery through programs focused on crisis relief, entrepreneurship, and economic development.
Together with its relief partners, THI provides a critical safety net to families hardest hit by the crisis. As of fall 2013, one in five Greek households and nearly 600,000 children were living below the poverty line and nearly half of all citizens lack health insurance. The organization has committed or distributed $6.6M USD in direct crisis relief.
THI is also dedicated to investment, whether as a grant to a nonprofit organization, mentorship for an emerging entrepreneur or investment in a small business, and has committed or distributed $11.7M USD in economic and entrepreneurial development.
Koudounis credits Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who served as Prime Minister from July 2019-May 2023, with helping Greece emerge from its debt crisis. He noted Greece is the most indebted European country and under the PM’s tenure began repaying creditors ahead of schedule, which should hopefully drive international rating agencies to lift Greece’s bonds from junk status. Mitsotakis also cut taxes and debt and increased digitization, minimum wages and pensions. As a result, the government is attracting multinational corporations, start-ups are investing and tourism is skyrocketing.
“I think Prime Minister Mitsotakis has done a very good job – the people need someone who can lead them and have the support of Europe,” he said. “This is the right path for Greece – it must create a sense of sustainability and accountability for major players to invest in the country to help build for the long term.”
Attracting foreign investment and promoting and supporting entrepreneurship in Greece and the next generations is vital to long-term future success, he added. THI seeks to ignite entrepreneurs, who it sees as critical to economic recovery and renewal, by helping to build companies and thus an economy on stronger, more sustainable foundations. The Hellenic Investment Fund provides growth equity to small and mid-sized companies that form the backbone of the Greek economy and whose success is critical to fueling its recovery.
THI has helped create 3,500 permanent jobs, provided 150,000 hours of job training, invested $10 million in promising Greek startups and engaged with more than 55,000 local entrepreneurs and job-seeking millennials.
“In our estimates, we have unlocked $100 million in investments and $10 million in salaries,” said Koudounis.
The Venture Fair, begun in 2015, provides an opportunity for Greece’s most promising start-ups to pitch to the international investment community. Ten start-ups will present to a panel of judges, with the winning team to receive the $25,000 Venture Impact Award, designed to help create ventures that are scalable, sustainable, and able to demonstrate a broader impact on society at large.
The event will conclude with a gala cocktail celebration honoring Vardis J. Vardinoyannis, Chairman of the Board, Motor Oil, who will receive THI’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Business and Philanthropy.
Koudounis is also a visible member of Chicago’s Greek American community. In March, he served as Grand Marshal of the Chicago Greek Independence Parade, one of the biggest annual events in the city’s Hellenic community filled with traditional costumes, music, and dance troupe performances. He is president of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago Foundation, with the purpose of providing stability and transparency for donors and generating funds that expressly advance its mission and long-term vision. Koudounis is also on the executive board of the National Hellenic Museum, which with its more than 10,000 physical artifacts, hundreds of oral histories, exhibitions, educational programs, and special events, strives to share Greek history, art, culture, and the Greek American story.
Before investing, carefully consider the fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. Please see the prospectus and summary prospectus containing this and other information which can be obtained by calling 1-800-582-6959. Read it carefully before investing.
An investment in the Fund(s) is subject to risks, and you could lose money on your investment in the Fund(s). There can be no assurance that the Fund(s) will achieve its investment objective. Your investment in the Fund(s) is not a deposit in a bank and is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or any other government agency. The risks associated with an investment in the Fund(s) can increase during times of significant market volatility. The Fund(s) also has specific principal risks, which are described below. More detailed information regarding these risks can be found in the Fund’s prospectus.
The principal risks of investing in the Calamos Antetokounmpo Global Sustainable Equities ETF include: equity securities risk consisting of market prices declining in general, growth stock risk consisting of potential increased volatility due to securities trading at higher multiples, value stock risk, foreign securities risk, forward foreign currency contract risk, emerging markets risk, small and mid-sized company risk and portfolio selection risk. As a result of political or economic instability in foreign countries, there can be special risks associated with investing in foreign securities, including fluctuations in currency exchange rates, increased price volatility and difficulty obtaining information. In addition, emerging markets may present additional risk due to potential for greater economic and political instability in less developed countries.
The principal risks of investing in the Calamos Antetokounmpo Sustainable Equities Fund include: equity securities risk consisting of market prices declining in general, growth stock risk consisting of potential increased volatility due to securities trading at higher multiples, large-capitalization stocks as a group could fall out of favor with the market, small and mid-sized company risk, sector risk, portfolio turnover risk, and portfolio selection risk.
The Fund’s ESG policy could cause it to perform differently compared to similar funds that do not have such a policy. The application of the social and environmental standards of Calamos Advisors may affect the Fund’s exposure to certain issuers, industries, sectors, and factors that may impact the relative financial performance of the Fund-positively or negatively-depending on whether such investments are in or out of favor.
Calamos Antetokounmpo Asset Management LLC (“CGAM”), an investment adviser registered with the SEC under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, serves as the Fund’s adviser (“Adviser”). CGAM is jointly owned by Calamos Advisors LLC and Original C Fund, LLC, an entity whose voting rights are wholly owned by Original PE, LLC which, in turn, is wholly owned by Giannis Sina Ugo Antetokounmpo.
Mr. Antetokounmpo serves on the Adviser’s Board of Directors and has indirect control of half of the Adviser’s Board.
Mr. Antetokounmpo is not a portfolio manager of the Fund and will not be involved in the day-to-day management of the Fund’s investments, and neither Original C nor Mr. Antetokounmpo shall provide any “investment advice” to the Fund. Mr. Antetokounmpo provided input in selecting the initial strategy for the Fund.
Mr. Antetokounmpo will be involved with marketing efforts on behalf of the Adviser.
If Mr. Antetokounmpo is no longer involved with the Fund or the Adviser then “Antetokounmpo” will be removed from the name of the Fund and the Adviser. Further, shareholders would be notified of any change in the name of the Fund or its strategy.
The Adviser is jointly owned and controlled by Calamos Advisors LLC and, indirectly, by Mr. Antetokounmpo, a well-known professional athlete. Unanticipated events, including, without limitation, death, adverse reputational events or business disputes, could result in Mr. Antetokounmpo no longer being associated or involved with the Adviser. Any such event could adversely impact the Fund and result in shareholders experiencing substantial losses.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) is based on the premise of investing in companies that have good environmental records, are ethically run and have a positive social impact.