- John Catsimatidis is the owner of New York City supermarket chain Gristedes Foods.
- The billionaire made headlines this week after telling The New York Times that he used Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition software that is supposedly only available to law enforcement, to identify a man his daughter was on a date with.
- Catsimatidis is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, a major Republican donor, and hosts a political talk show.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Many billionaires are serious about their personal security, but few are as outspoken about it as John Catsimatidis.
Catsimatidis, who made his fortune running a chain of New York City-area grocery stores, said in 2018 that he installed infrared sensors at his house in the Hamptons and sleeps with the same gun James Bond carried under his pillow.
On Thursday, Catsimatidis made headlines after telling The New York Times that he used Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition software that is supposedly only available to law enforcement, to identify a man his daughter was on a date with. Catsimatidis confirmed to The Times that he had access to the app, which Clearview AI had previously said was only accessible by law enforcement.
The billionaire said he was friends with a Clearview AI founder, Richard Schwartz, and that he ran a trial project with the app at an East Side Gristedes that was having trouble with shoplifters stealing Häagen-Dazs.
Representatives for Catsimatidis at his grocery and energy conglomerate, Red Apple Group, did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment on Catsimatidis’ net worth, personal history, career, and use of Clearview AI.
John Catsimatidis, 71, began his career in groceries while attending New York University.
Catsimatidis was born in Greece, and immigrated to New York with his parents at 6 months old, Forbes reported. The Catsimatidis family lived in an apartment in Harlem, and John later spent time in lower Manhattan to study electrical engineering at New York University.
He took a part-time job at a local grocery store to support himself during school, but dropped out during his senior year after he was offered a chance to become a partial owner of the store, Forbes reported.
By the time he was 25, Catsimatidis owned 10 grocery stores on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Catsimatidis owned and operated Red Apple supermarkets, and acquired the Gristedes supermarket chain in 1986, according to Catsimatidis’ website.
Red Apple says Gristedes is now the largest supermarket chain in New York City.
Catsimatidis may be best known for his grocery business, but a lot of his wealth comes from elsewhere.
Catsimatidis has a net worth of $US3.3 billion, Forbes estimates.
Catsimatidis is married, with two children.
Catsimatidis and his wife Margo have two adult children, Andrea and John Jr., according to Catsimatidis’ personal website.
Andrea Catsimatidis, 29, is an executive at her father’s company and the chairwoman of the Manhattan Republican Party, Business Insider reported.
The family lived on Fifth Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side while Andrea was growing up, Business Insider reported.
They have a second home in the Hamptons, complete with infrared sensors.
The vacation home is located in East Quogue, New York, according to The New York Post.
Catsimatidis told The Post in 2018 that he was upping security measures at his Hamptons home after a recent break-in and nearby activity from MS-13.
“I sleep with a gun underneath my pillow: a Walther PPK/S, the same one James Bond carried,” Catsimatidis told The Post. “[My wife] Margo prefers a shotgun. Although, once, she thought she heard something, got the shotgun out and shot through the door.”
Like his daughter, Catsimatidis is active in local politics.
The billionaire is an outspoken fundraiser and donor to the Republican Party, according to The New York Times. He even ran for New York City mayor in 2013, but lost in the Republican primary to former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.
Catsimatidis is considering running for mayor again in 2021, but this time as a Democrat, he told The Real Deal.
The grocery titan is an avid Trump supporter, however, telling Bloomberg in August that “Trump has stood up against the problem at the borders … Build a wall.”
Catsimatidis frequently had political figures stop by to discuss public policy while his children were growing up, including the Clintons, Rudy Giuliani, and John Kerry, The Times reported.
Catsimatidis also hosts a politics-focused talk radio show which airs on several stations on Sunday mornings, called The Cats Roundtable.
Catsimatidis made headlines in March after telling The New York Times that he had used a controversial facial recognition app to do a background check on a man his daughter Andrea was on a date with.
The incident occurred after John spotted Andrea dining at a restaurant with a man he didn’t know. He had the waiter secretly snap a photo of the date, used the app to identify him, and emailed the results to Andrea.
“I wanted to make sure he wasn’t a charlatan,” John Catsimatidis told The New York Times.
However, the app he used is an unreleased piece of software with potentially catastrophic privacy implications, Business Insider reported. Its searchable database of photos scraped from across the web is only sold to police departments and federal agencies, Clearview says, but new reports have indicated that it has also given access to other clients, including billionaires like Catsimatidis, retail chains like Walmart and Macy’s, the NBA, and even some high schools.