Greek American entrepreneur John D. Georges (photo center), CEO of Georges Enterprises and the Georges Media Group, recently purchased The Advocate, one of the nation’s oldest and largest local daily newspaper and digital media outlet that currently serves the Louisiana communities of Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette and surrounding parishes. The Advocate was first published as a weekly in 1842 and has a daily average circulation of daily households and 500,000 daily unique digital visitors.
Asked by NEO magazine why he decided to invest in the print media when it seems they are loosing in the popularity contest against digital forms of information, John Georges thinks that “smaller town newspapers are more stable than big cities. Having said that, the Advocate plans to offer both print and digital. We have an opportunity to grow both our print and digital due to our proximity of New Orleans being less than 40 minutes away.” He’s also confident that his name in the state is a big asset in helping the newspaper to grow. “I have 100 percent name recognition in Louisiana and actually won New Orleans in the governor’s race. My popularity will help me grow circulation and advertisers. Being publisher of Louisiana’s largest daily newspaper is a better way to serve the community. Who knows what lies in the future for me? Right now running the Advocate is my priority.”
A member of Leadership 100 and an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Order of St. Andrew, John Georges is a major supporter of the Greek Orthodox Church around the world. He is also CEO of Georges Enterprises, a billion dollar family company that owns interests in several established Louisiana businesses, including Imperial Trading Co, one of the nation’s leading food distributors, which was founded by John’s maternal grandfather Gus Pelias in 1916. Gus founded the dry goods business after immigrating to America. At age 11, John began working in the family business under the direction of his father, Dennis Georges, and uncle, Gerald Pelias. He swept floors in the warehouse and later began making deliveries by truck at age 15. Today, Imperial Trading operates as a wholesale grocery distributor in a dozen states, distributing more than 10,000 products from candy to health and beauty items. When John joined Imperial it was a $29 million business and now sales are estimated at over $1 billion annually.
The importance of family is a constant in John’s personal and professional life. Prior to the recent purchase, the same Louisiana family had owned The Advocate since the early 1900s. “The Advocate is a family business, and we intend to keep it that way,” said John. “Louisiana’s top daily deserves local, family ownership. The Georges family looks forward to continuing the good works and community-minded spirit for which The Advocate has been known,” he said.
The purchase of The Advocate had been in process for two years. In 2012, the Baton Rouge newspaper expanded into the New Orleans market when that city’s newspaper ceased daily publication, filling an information void and locals’ desire for timely news. ”The Advocate, and newspapers in general, play an important role in the daily life of communities and families,” said John. “They connect us together in an increasingly disconnected world,” he said. John is not alone in his belief that newspapers are a good investment. Recently, business tycoons such as Warren Buffet and the Koch Brothers have made similar investments in local news.
John has been active in the Baton Rouge community for some time prior to his purchase of The Advocate. In addition to serving on The L.S.U. Medical Foundation Board he was also a member of The State Board of Regents. He also sponsors the Baton Rouge Greek Festival. Modeled on the hugely popular Greek Festival founded by John’s father, Dennis, in New Orleans 40 years ago, the Baton Rouge Greek Festival is quickly becoming another Georges’ success story.
John’s stewardship in the Greek community includes decades of leadership with his own church in New Orleans. Georges was president of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Following Hurricane Katrina, when the church grounds were still flooded, he chartered a helicopter to view the devastation and made quick arrangements to rebuild Holy Trinity and other churches. In October 2009, Georges hosted a historic visit by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who toured the areas of the worst destruction and prayed for the City’s recovery. John and his wife, Dathel, live in New Orleans with their children Zana, Liza and Nike.
Georges Enterprises specializes in acquiring established businesses and business startups and turning them into profit makers by taking a progressive approach and giving a fresh perspective to traditional industries. The firm is a leader in every segment of business they manage including food distribution, entertainment and amusement, restaurants and real estate investments.
The company also owns AMA Distributors, one of the largest amusement and family entertainment companies in Louisiana, as well as Galatoire’s, the grand dame of New Orleans old-line restaurants with locations on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge. It also owned Dolphin Marine International, an ocean going, rig moving and salvage tug company that it sold in 2010. Georges Enterprises also has a diverse portfolio of real estate holdings including residential, commercial and industrial properties. New Orleans City Business ranks it as the second largest private company in the region.
Demetrios Rhompotis is the publisher of NEO Magazine.