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John CatsimatidisJamel Toppin

John Catsimatidis, whose $3.1 billion fortune lies in extensive real estate, Gristedes supermarkets and a Pennsylvania oil refinery, is serious about his investment portfolio. His goal is a double-digit return every year – but without taking on too much risk in the stock market. “We’re pretty conservative,” says Catsimatidis. “We take on risks when it comes to high-yield bonds.”

Forbes spoke to Catsimatidis in August. At that point, he said he had 70% of his stockholdings invested in financial and energy companies, but was looking at making his portfolio more conservative. Half of his money he has managed by big firms like JPMorganChase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, and the other half is managed by his own staff. Last year the in-house team outperformed the outside heavyweights, returning 15%, 2 percentage points better than the banks. “Every week and every month we look at the batting average – who’s ahead of who,” he adds.

Catsimatidis came to the U.S. from Greece with his parents when he was just 6 months old. The family lived in Harlem in a 5-room apartment; his father worked two jobs to make ends meet. He attended NYU but dropped out just shy of graduating for an opportunity to work and build ownership in a grocery store. He eventually built up a chain of grocery stores and then plowed the profits into other investments. (See this video interview with Catsimatidis from 2016.) 

One big bet has been on real estate. He has long focused on acquiring residential and commercial buildings in the New York area. Altogether he owns about 80 buildings, and has built new apartment towers in Brooklyn’s Fort Green neighborhood. Recently, he has snapped up properties in Florida. “You have 2,000 people a day moving to Florida, and Miami is the capital of South America,” he says. “We just started investing there.”

He is also particular about investments that he shuns. “I don’t believe in municipal bonds; I want to get a higher return,” he says. What else does he avoid? Hedge funds. “We don’t like the amounts of fees they charge.” He’s not alone – the hedge fund sector has plenty of struggling participants.

What about cryptocurrencies? “I told my son who wanted me to invest in it: ‘Never put more money in bitcoin than you would put on the blackjack table.”

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John CatsimatidisJamel Toppin

John Catsimatidis, whose $3.1 billion fortune lies in extensive real estate, Gristedes supermarkets and a Pennsylvania oil refinery, is serious about his investment portfolio. His goal is a double-digit return every year – but without taking on too much risk in the stock market. “We’re pretty conservative,” says Catsimatidis. “We take on risks when it comes to high-yield bonds.”

Forbes spoke to Catsimatidis in August. At that point, he said he had 70% of his stockholdings invested in financial and energy companies, but was looking at making his portfolio more conservative. Half of his money he has managed by big firms like JPMorganChase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, and the other half is managed by his own staff. Last year the in-house team outperformed the outside heavyweights, returning 15%, 2 percentage points better than the banks. “Every week and every month we look at the batting average – who’s ahead of who,” he adds.

Catsimatidis came to the U.S. from Greece with his parents when he was just 6 months old. The family lived in Harlem in a 5-room apartment; his father worked two jobs to make ends meet. He attended NYU but dropped out just shy of graduating for an opportunity to work and build ownership in a grocery store. He eventually built up a chain of grocery stores and then plowed the profits into other investments. (See this video interview with Catsimatidis from 2016.) 

One big bet has been on real estate. He has long focused on acquiring residential and commercial buildings in the New York area. Altogether he owns about 80 buildings, and has built new apartment towers in Brooklyn’s Fort Green neighborhood. Recently, he has snapped up properties in Florida. “You have 2,000 people a day moving to Florida, and Miami is the capital of South America,” he says. “We just started investing there.”

He is also particular about investments that he shuns. “I don’t believe in municipal bonds; I want to get a higher return,” he says. What else does he avoid? Hedge funds. “We don’t like the amounts of fees they charge.” He’s not alone – the hedge fund sector has plenty of struggling participants.

What about cryptocurrencies? “I told my son who wanted me to invest in it: ‘Never put more money in bitcoin than you would put on the blackjack table.”