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Tycoon Manoli Olympitis, 71, charts a lifetime of high jinks in new memoir

A tycoon who wooed some of the world’s most glamorous women – including New York socialites, Hollywood actresses and even a Princess – during the Swinging Sixties – and beyond – has written a tell-all memoir about his passionate encounters, and how he was tamed.  

In his new book, Marked Cards, Emmanuel Olympitis, known as ‘Manoli’, 71, spills the beans on a lifetime spent frequenting the world’s glitziest venues, packing in dozens of anecdotes about his brushes with famous stars and socialites.

Olympitis, who was born in London to Greek parents, recounts in the memoirs his first heady affair at 23 with Yves St Laurent muse Nan Kempner, a turbulent marriage to American heiress Jan Cushing and how he finally found happiness with ‘soulmate’ interior designer Emily Todhunter, with whom he has three children.  

His high-end partying years saw the savvy businessman also step out with a string of glamorous women including Princess Ira von Fürstenberg and American actress Valerie Perrine. 

However, the book also reveals Manoli grew tired of endless carousing, big-money poker games and even run-ins with friends of the Mafia, admitting to Tatler that ‘your nerves go at around 55 to 60’.

Businessman Emmanuel 'Manoli' Olympitis (pictured with Princess Ira von Fürstenberg in the 1970s), 71, has released a memoir which details thirty years of star-studded anecdotes set in high-end hangouts all around the world

Businessman Emmanuel ‘Manoli’ Olympitis (pictured with Princess Ira von Fürstenberg in the 1970s), 71, has released a memoir which details thirty years of star-studded anecdotes set in high-end hangouts all around the world

Born in the capital to Greek parents, the savvy businessman was accompanied by a string of glamorous women, such as Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, 80, and American actress Valerie Perrine, 77, throughout his prime. Pictured recently with his wife interior designer Emily Todhunter

Born in the capital to Greek parents, the savvy businessman was accompanied by a string of glamorous women, such as Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, 80, and American actress Valerie Perrine, 77, throughout his prime. Pictured recently with his wife interior designer Emily Todhunter

The businessman says he’s glad he left his partying days behind him after meeting ‘soulmate’ interior designer Emily Todhunter, with whom he shares a glamorous house near Marlborough and a flat in Knightsbridge.

The pair were married in 1996 and have a daughter, Olympia, 23, and 18-year-old twin sons, Mikey and Aleko.

According to his first wife, the American heiress Jan Cushing, her friend, US author Truman Capote, couldn’t bear to look at Olympitis because he was so beautiful.

Before wedding Cushing, Olympitis tells in the book his first real ‘awakening’ came in the form of a year-long affair with New Yorker Nan Kempner at the age of 23.

When that was over he fell in love with Ira von Furstenberg, the pin-up princess whose former sister-in-law is Belgian designer Diane Von Furstenberg. As rich as she is aristocratic – her father was a prince, her mother an Agnelli (the founding family of Fiat), the princess and industrial heiress became famous as a child bride.

At the age of 15, she eloped and married the 31-year-old Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, creator of the Marbella Club, in a scandal which shocked 1950s society.  

In the later 1970s, Olympitis fell in love with Ira von Furstenberg (pictured together), the pin-up princess whose former sister-in-law is Belgian designer Diane Von Furstenberg

In the later 1970s, Olympitis fell in love with Ira von Furstenberg (pictured together), the pin-up princess whose former sister-in-law is Belgian designer Diane Von Furstenberg

As rich as she is aristocratic, Ira von Furstenberg's father was a prince and her mother an Agnelli (the founding family of Fiat) but the princess and industrial heiress (pictured with Olympitis) became famous as a child bride

As rich as she is aristocratic, Ira von Furstenberg’s father was a prince and her mother an Agnelli (the founding family of Fiat) but the princess and industrial heiress (pictured with Olympitis) became famous as a child bride

New York socialites, heiresses and a Greek princess: Emmanuel ‘Manoli’ Olympitis’ passionate encounters… before he found his ‘soulmate’

In his new memoir, Emmanuel ‘Manoli’ Olympitis, 71, details thirty years spent prominent fixture in London’s high-end social scene.

The savvy businessman stepped out with a string of glamorous women, including Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, now 80, and American actress Valerie Perrine, now 77, while in his prime.

Here, FEMAIL reveals the society beauties that caught the businessman’s eye before he settled down with his ‘soulmate’ interior designer Emily Todhunter.

Nan Kempner 

From Yves Saint Laurent muse to Dior disco queen, Nan Kempner (pictured in 2001) lit up the New York fashion scene for more than 40 years

From Yves Saint Laurent muse to Dior disco queen, Nan Kempner (pictured in 2001) lit up the New York fashion scene for more than 40 years

The businessman’s first ‘awakening’ came in the form of a year-long affair with New York socialite Nan Kempner.

From Yves Saint Laurent muse to Dior disco queen, Nan Kempner lit up the New York fashion scene for more than 40 years.

The great fashion editor Diana Vreeland once said, ‘There are no chic women in America. The one exception is Nan Kempner.’ 

She amassed the largest private collection of haute couture in the world, including 374 pieces of YSL. 

Immortalised by Andy Warhol in 1973, the socialite and philanthropist was the ultimate clotheshorse of her generation, a disco queen in Dior hot pants who cross-pollinated American sportswear and Paris couture.

In 1952, she married Thomas Kempner, chairman of an investment bank, and the pair had three children Tommy, Lina and James.

Nan famously told Women’s Wear Daily in 1972, ‘I tell people all the time I want to be buried naked because there must be a store where I’m going.’  

She died, aged 74, from emphysema in 2005.

Princess Ira von Furstenberg seen in 2007 in Rome, Italy

Princess Ira von Furstenberg seen in 2007 in Rome, Italy

Princess Ira von Furstenberg

When his time with Nan was over, was over, Olympitis fell in love with Ira von Furstenberg, the pin-up princess whose former sister-in-law is Belgian designer Diane Von Furstenberg. 

As rich as she is aristocratic, her father was a prince and her mother an Agnelli (the founding family of Fiat) – the princess and industrial heiress became famous as a child bride.

At the age of 15, she eloped and married the 31-year-old Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, creator of the Marbella Club, in a scandal which shocked the society of the 1950s.  

After a second failed marriage, to a notorious Brazilian playboy, the mother-of-two and beloved Italian movie star, as well as a fashion businesswoman, pursued her love affairs unrestricted by the institution. 

Valerie Perrine

Actress Valerie Perrine and Manoli Olympitis on January 2, 1986 dining at Spago in West Hollywood, California

Actress Valerie Perrine and Manoli Olympitis on January 2, 1986 dining at Spago in West Hollywood, California

Before his marriage to Emily, Olympitis was pictured in the papers with Hollywood actress Valerie Perrine.

Valerie, 77, is an American actress and model, originally born in Texas. She is the daughter of a dancer who appeared on Broadway and a lieutenant colonel in the US Army.

For her role as Honey Bruce in the 1974 film Lenny, she won the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Her other film appearances include Superman (1978), The Electric Horseman (1979), and Superman II (1980).

After a second failed marriage, to a notorious Brazilian playboy, the mother-of-two and beloved Italian movie star, as well as a fashion businesswoman, pursued her love affairs unrestricted by the institution.

It was then, at the end of 1978, where she met Olympitis, who was nearing thirty, at a house of a mutual friend.

 ‘Ira was not in the mood to settle down. And I realised that I had insufficient funds to maintain her lifestyle in any case. Somewhat wistfully, and gently, she could not accept…
 Manoli Olympitis on proposing to Ira von Furstenberg

Describing her as ‘one of the nicest, kindest people I have ever known’ who is a ‘universally popular, life-enhancing person’, Olympitis recalled how the pair began a ‘highly agreeable life together’.

She would take the businessman to lavish evenings at the houses of her friends such as Heini Thyssen, the German industrialist, a very close friend of Princess Margaret; Roberto Campos, the Brazilian ambassador; and the publisher Lord George Weidenfeld.

He would in turn, whisk her away to Greece, or spend evenings together at London’s private members’ circuit – including nights at Mark’s Club, Harry’s Bar and Annabel’s.

James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore (far left), writer Jeremy Lloyd (second from left) and composer Leslie Bricusse (second from right) with Manoli Olympitis

James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore (far left), writer Jeremy Lloyd (second from left) and composer Leslie Bricusse (second from right) with Manoli Olympitis

Before meeting Emily (pictured with her husband), Olympitis confessed that he enjoyed his partying ways - which included throwing get-togethers where Mick Jagger and David Bowie performed - because the 'last thing I wanted was to get married'

Before meeting Emily (pictured with her husband), Olympitis confessed that he enjoyed his partying ways – which included throwing get-togethers where Mick Jagger and David Bowie performed – because the ‘last thing I wanted was to get married’

But their amicable life together was ‘ruined’, when Olympitis ‘got carried away and asked her to marry me’.

‘Ira was not in the mood to settle down,’ he confesses in his book. ‘And I realised that I had insufficient funds to maintain her lifestyle in any case. Somewhat wistfully, and gently, she could not accept.

‘She then left me and disappeared with an impecunious Swiss ski instructor… at that point I was depressed and dejected, and it was in that irrational state of mind that I met my first wife on a business trip to New York.’

He married American heiress Jan Cushing in 1981 and the unpleasant experience was only improved by the birth of their son John, now 39.

But when he left Cushing, the businessman had to defy the lawyer who was a friend of Al Capone and believed to have helped the US mafia, Sidney Korshak.

Olympitis received a phone call from Korshak, thought to be one of the most ‘powerful men in America’, who was a friend of Cushing’s.

The pair were married in 1996 and have a daughter, Olympia, 23, and 18-year-old twin sons, Mikey and Aleko. The family pictured together when the children were youngsters

The pair were married in 1996 and have a daughter, Olympia, 23, and 18-year-old twin sons, Mikey and Aleko. The family pictured together when the children were youngsters

Olympitis and Emily's 18-year-old twin sons, Mikey and Aleko, pictured right to left, during their last term at Eton

Olympitis and Emily’s 18-year-old twin sons, Mikey and Aleko, pictured right to left, during their last term at Eton

Recalling the terrifying call, Olympitis writes: ‘Here’s what I think you should do. It’s time to go home. Go home. Go back to New York. Go back to your son, to your wife, your family. They need you. That’s where you belong. Go home. You understand me?’

‘I took a deep breath. I had been expecting this. It was now or never. “Sidney, you’re kind to call,” I said, “but I can’t do that. Ever. I wouldn’t be any use to either of them. I’m sure you understand.”

‘I continued, “I know of course something could happen to me. But if my son became an orphan, would it help him? I don’t think so. Anyway, I’ll just have to risk it, there’s nothing else I can do.”

‘There was a long silence at the other end. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. “I guess not,” came the gruff reply. 

‘I swear I could detect a trace of laughter in the deep voice. “Nothing you can do at all… but I guess you’ll be okay, kid. Go carefully. Take care of yourself.” He rang off abruptly.’

Olympitis had appealed to the family’s code and it had worked. And the businessman wasn’t only daring with his relationships, but also on high-stake poker games as well. 

Olympitis (pictured recently, with his wife) came from a well-off London Greek family and attended The King's School in Canterbury

Olympitis (pictured recently, with his wife) came from a well-off London Greek family and attended The King’s School in Canterbury

Olympitis had one son, John, with his first wife, the American heiress Jan Cushing. Pictured: John with his wife Liza and their daughter Anastasia

Olympitis' 23-year-old daughter, pictured

Olympitis had one son, John, with his first wife, the American heiress Jan Cushing. Pictured left: John with his wife Liza and their daughter Anastasia. Pictured right: Olympitis’ daughter

The businessman's brother-in-law was David Cameron's best man and he and his wife (pictured with their children when they were youngsters) shared a holiday cottage with George Osborne for years

The businessman’s brother-in-law was David Cameron’s best man and he and his wife (pictured with their children when they were youngsters) shared a holiday cottage with George Osborne for years

He was playing for ‘much more than I could afford – it’s no fun gambling at stakes you can afford,’ he told Tatler.

After one terrible loss, he phoned gamblers anonymous at 3am, only to receive their voicemail before heading back to the tables and coming out on top by £55,000. 

Olympitis gave up his gambling ways around 15 years ago, explaining: ‘Your nerves go at around 55 to 60. But when you’re young, you have extraordinary nerves about making a bet you can’t afford without blinking.’

Marked Cards by Emmanuel Olympitis (pictured) (£16) is published by Quartet Books and is available now

Marked Cards by Emmanuel Olympitis (pictured) (£16) is published by Quartet Books and is available now

Before meeting Emily, Olympitis confessed that he enjoyed his partying ways – which included throwing get-togethers where Mick Jagger and David Bowie performed – because he had no interested in being married. 

He had his son and loved living alone, with his many girlfriends who he wouldn’t commit to, and had quite a lot of money.

But speaking to the publication, he admitted that family life wooed him in the end, saying he’s ‘thrilled’ by his life now, and might ‘be dead’ if he’d continued to party.

Olympitis came from a well-off London Greek family and attended The King’s School in Canterbury, where he competed in fencing to an Olympic squad standard.

He then went to University College London and his executive roles include Bankers Trust International, Aitken Hume International plc, Johnson & Higgins Ltd, and Pacific Media plc.  

His society connections remain firmly in tact though; his brother-in-law was David Cameron’s best man and he and Emily shared a holiday cottage with George Osborne for years.  

Marked Cards by Emmanuel Olympitis (£16) is published by Quartet Books and is available now. 

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