NOOSA – The death of leading Papua New Guinea business figure and philanthropist, Sir Kostas Constantinou at the age of 66, has deprived the country of the head of its most prominent, wealthy and politically-connected family.
In the 1950s, his father George migrated to PNG with his Greek Cypriot family to make their fortune.
PNG was then a struggling Australian colony recovering from World War II and George Constantinou brought with him the energy and enterprise directed at building a business empire.
Sir George Constantinou was one of PNG’s most successful and wealthiest entrepreneurs when he was murdered in a Port Moresby carjack in 2008.
All of his attackers were soon themselves killed by what was termed “guerrilla soldiers”.
After Sir George's death, the patriarch of the family became Kostas, the talented head of the Constantinou Group of Companies, who died in Brisbane two weeks ago of heart failure.
Later knighted as Sir Kostas, he devoted the last 15 years to successfully adding to his father’s immense legacy.
The Constantinou Group owned, invested in and, through Sir Kostas, chaired many of PNG’s largest companies including Bank South Pacific, Air Niugini and hotels and resorts.
He was also vice-chairman of the PNG Employers Federation and honorary consul for Greece and Cyprus, and both a respected philanthropist and allegedly a 'cash cow' for politicians and political parties.
Sir Kosta's 10-year chairmanship of the BSP Financial Group, which ended only in February, made a significant impact on the PNG economy as the bank expanded to several Pacific Island nations and Cambodia and Laos.
He had a policy of ensuring that any company he was associated with invested in the community, especially in health and education, which made him a highly respected figure.
In a tribute to Sir Kostas, his family said:
“A true Constantinou, he built an empire across the Pacific, Constantinou Group, continuing the legacy of his late father Sir George Constantinou with Airways, Lamana Hotel, Lamana development, Monier, Hebou, Loloata Resort, Gazelle International(PNG), Heritage Park Hotel (Solomon Islands), Taumeasina Island Resort (Samoa).
“Sir Kostas Constantinou was a resilient and proud Papua New Guinean at heart, creating employment opportunities and inspiring numerous individuals in the pursuit of progress for the future.
“His impact will be greatly missed, but his memory and vision will be cherished, especially through his philanthropy. He was an incredible human being, and his legacy will be irreplaceable.”
There is no doubt that, despite the controversies he had to deal with, Sir Kostas had a profound impact on the PNG economy – particularly in business, aviation, banking and finance.
He was also noteworthy for his charisma, energy, visionary thinking and exceptional leadership, which remain scarce attributes in PNG.