The eccentric entrepreneur tells us it’s “really easy making money”
Alki David has offered to pay tuition fees for any student who streaks past Nick Clegg. He’s already forked out $130,000 for a man who attempted to run butt-naked in front of Obama in 2010.
If you like a bad boy billionaire story, this is your man.
Valued at £1.49bn by The Sunday Times Rich List, he’s the heir to the Coca-Cola Hellenic shipping and bottling company which is the second-largest bottler globally of the beverage giant. His father, Andrew David, was the MD of Hellenic Bottling Company, which merged in 2000 with Coca-Cola Beverages to become Coca-Cola Hellenic. The company moved its listing from the Athens Stock Exchange to the London Stock Exchange several weeks ago. It has operations in 28 countries across Europe and Africa, employing more than 40,000 people.
And you can tell this billionaire’s son from a millionaire’s. He owns 11 homes, in Knightsbridge, Hampstead and Beverly Hills, among other places. A Ferrari, Bentley and an Aston Martin are among his fleet of cars and, of course, he owns two yachts.
A self-confessed “gypsy”, he and his second wife Jennifer Stano divide their time between London, LA, Switzerland and Greece.
David also runs FilmOn, which he claims is the world’s largest provider of free internet television. It has 500 channels and has licensing deals with bigwigs like Disney, ESPN and Fox. That’s probably why his good friend Charlie Sheen has invested in the business. This year, David’s put $30m aside to promote the brand in America and Europe.
Passionate about acting, he’s appeared in films including The Bank Job and in TV shows like Spooks and Waking the Dead. He has also been invited to be an investor on Dragons’ Den, but turned it down.
The Nigerian-born entrepreneur has also launched a controversial site called Battlecam, where users upload videos of stunts and audiences rate them with ‘I like it!’ or ‘Poop’ buttons.
So what’s it like to be an outrageous billionaire? We get a sneak peek into David’s life…
Q. Your father was a billionaire, so did you have a very privileged childhood?
I was having lunch with my writer friend Jeffrey Archer. Despite popular belief, he’s a wonderful and clever man. He mentioned this Theodore Roosevelt quote about a man’s condition in the fight of productivity and creativity, which is really apt for me.
When you have the blood of an entrepreneur mixed with mine, your life is constantly on the move and also in the throes of one battle or the other. So I wouldn’t say I had a privileged life, but I had an exciting life. My father always seemed to choose challenging countries like Romania and Nigeria, which opened my eyes to people and different aspects of the world’s communities.
Q. So Coca-Cola HBC floated on the London Stock Exchange in April. How’s the business going?
The stocks are booming – like all stocks, it seems. The move to the London Stock Exchange was right, the share price has gone up. It’s moving up with all the liquidity in the market, it’s an exciting time as a lot of people are investing in London.
Q. How much was the European debt crisis a factor in moving to the LSE?
Our company is a very profitable company. In the long run, it’s important for a public company to have liquidity. The Athens Stock Exchange was not providing the liquidity a company of this size needs. There’s no point in being a public stock where there is no activity.
Q. Your father left you a billion-dollar empire. What motivated you to start your own business when you have so much money?
Look, I’ve tried living the life of a monk and tried many different things. I like a challenge. I guess it’s a lifestyle choice. Growing up with a successful father, I wanted to make it on my own terms. I wanted approval of some kind, I knew I’d be happy only if I had my own success story to tell.
That said, I think making money is really easy. You find something that makes a profit and keep repeating it – there’s no magic in making money.
Q. How did you think of FilmOn?
I’ve been in the film business for a long time and very often I found myself being ripped off by film distributors from films that I own. I developed FilmOn as a business-to-business platform to be able to distribute my films to buyers directly. It then evolved into a consumer offering [in]2009.
I’ve been involved in different internet projects since early nineties. So over the years I saw that in California you have the northern California mentality of ‘technology is king’ and in southern California you have the ‘content is king’ mentality. I find myself neatly positioned between the two. That’s how FilmOn naturally evolved into a live TV, video on demand and social TV platform.
Q. How did you get Charlie Sheen to invest in your business?
Hollywood is a very small place and I spend my time between Beverly Hills and London. I knew Charlie through a common friend so I thought of him when I was looking for a name and a face for FilmOn. He’s very internet-friendly and, of course, FilmOn is a controversial brand so he fits right in there. But I’m the majority investor.
Q. You’ve invested $30m to promote FilmOn – what’s the return on investment you’re expecting?
The business is now cash positive month to month. I’ve put a franchise model in place where I am breaking down the business territory by territory.
With FilmOn, we have developed a cool platform for mobile, apps and devices that can be white-labelled or affiliated. I’ll give you an example – we have done a deal with TV Guide and if you go to their site, you’ll see a few channels in their listings. We sub license our content with third parties so that helps us increase distribution.
It’s a scalable platform that can integrate itself with mobiles and other devices that will help us make partnerships anywhere in the world.
Q. Why did you launch Battlecam?
My wife and I use to broadcast videos on this website called Justin.tv which was a very successful. We were an extrovert couple who had a good following, so those people followed us when we launched Battlecam. I think it has now become an anti-social community. In LA, I have a TV station called KILM and we broadcast videos from Battlecam to 7.5 million cable homes on the west coast.
It’s a popular TV station. I did a test on Sky a few months ago where I broadcasted on one of the showcase. We will bring it to UK soon.
Q. Do you think it will do well in the UK?
The Scottish love Battlecam for some reason. From the test we did on Sky, the Scottish loved it. It’s one of those oddities, you know, like in Saudi Arabia.
Q. Can you show anything on Battlecam?
It’s an 18-rated site but there’s no pornography, animal killing and no racism. We moderate it all. It’s censored for profanity and nudity.
Q. Google your name and we see a lot controversies, lawsuits and streaking challenges galore – why do you do and create these?
Oh I generally get involved in lawsuits with networks in the States. I am about to launch a lawsuit with a big broadcaster in some time that will get a lot of attention. It’s attention seeking. It’s a cost-effective marketing technique. Of course there are risks of controversies that go with it, but if your brand is controversial then people forget the stunt and remember the brand.
Q. Why did you choose Nick Clegg and Obama for streaking challenges?
I think at the time there was a lot of news around Clegg and his U-turn on tuition fees. My older son is going to college next year and I rem
ember my time at Royal College of Art where I was very involved in the students’ union. So university is a time for experimentation and not a time where you sit and contemplate how you will repay your loan. So Clegg kind of annoyed me. That’s not to say that Obama annoyed me. In his case, it was just the wrong president, wrong time for the streaking challenge.
The Nick Clegg challenge is heartfelt. There would be nothing better than to see naked people throw themselves at Nick Clegg.
Q. What investments have you made?
I’m very proud of an investment called Navios Maritime that I built up with my cousin. We merged it with another company and took it to the New York Stock Exchange in 2007. We built it up from nothing and sold it for $800m. Diversity is really important for me. Whether it’s a big or small investment, I rarely invest in anything that I am not involved in day-to-day. I am very leery, I do my research because ultimately I want to be the master of my own destruction.
Q. How about investing in London property?
Good question. I have three homes in London, they’ve all appreciated. I get turned on by premium properties in premium locations, whether it is Knightsbridge, Hampstead or Belgravia. Maybe Mayfair, but I wouldn’t invest anywhere else in London.
Knightsbridge is a very strange area. During the depression in the last few years, that property remained resilient and as soon as the economy picked up, the prices went bananas. Hampstead, which is very stable, has always increased slowly, like 5% a year. I find London prime property very predictable – the only thing that you can’t predict is just how much it’ll go up at any given time.
Q. You seem to love Knightsbridge – ever considered buying in One Hyde Park?
I’ve looked at One Hyde Park, it’s a nice building but living like that would be like living in a rabbit hole or a goldfish bowl. I quite fancy the idea of having a nice view but I like listed homes. I live very feng shui, very bright windows and lots of lights. I like minimalism.
Q. I’m sure your home in Beverly Hills isn’t that simple…
Yes, my home in Beverly Hills isn’t like that, it’s gone the other way. Of course it comes with a pool etc, but we don’t go for butlers and drivers, we like to cook and pump our own gas.
Q. How did you get into acting?
Acting is a hobby and I love it, I’d ideally like to do one film a year. My next release is Guido with Gary Busey, Armand Assante and Billy Zane.
I got asked to do Dragons’ Den a few years ago and I turned it down, the timing was wrong. I wouldn’t mind doing it.
Q. Where do like to splash your cash?
In the UK I drive a Bentley and an Aston Martin. My wife has a Bentley in LA and I have a Ferrari California in LA, that’s quite a namesake for the State. In Greece I drive a golf cart.
Q. Finally, why are you called the “Greek Abramovich”? Is it the yachts?
I don’t know where that comes from. Yeah, I have a couple of yachts. I keep them in Greece, they are more power yachts than slow boats. I have a big Sunseeker and a Benetti that’s much smaller.
Great, thanks for your time Alki!
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