August 13, 2012

Gregory Anthony Kouri, early PayPal investor, dies at 51

BY ELINOR J. BRECHER
ebrecher@MiamiHerald.com

 Greg Kouri, a Miami Beach investor and high-tech "angel,'' helped launch PayPal with investment capital. He lived in Miami Beach, and died in New York on Saturday at 51.
Gregory Anthony Kouri, an early investor in the e-commerce payment service PayPal, died unexpectedly in New York City on Saturday at age 51.

A third generation Lebanese-Canadian, he was born June 15, 1961, in Montreal. He lived in Miami Beach with his wife, Miami Beach/New York real estate broker Jean Marie Echemendia-Kouri, and daughters Vanessa Juliette Kouri, 7, and Ava Camille Frankel, 15.

Jack Abdo, a prominent South Florida developer and a paternal cousin, said Kouri succumbed to a heart attack at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, where the family keeps an apartment.

He’d gone to the emergency room Friday night in pain, saying he’d swallowed a fish bone, Abdo said.

Kouri left Canada for Silicon Valley in 1994 after earning a degree in business from the University of Western Ontario, said his brother, Andrew Kouri.

Andrew called his brother a “take-charge kind of guy [and] an A-1 go-getter’’ who played ice hockey, soccer and poker in his youth.

Just last week they met in Miami and discussed a Bal Harbour condo deal that Greg Kouri was involved in, he said.

Kouri continued to be an “angel investor’’ in high-tech ventures, his wife said.

For a time in California, Kouri lived with the brothers Elon and Kimbal Musk , according to close friend Alexander Daly, a retired Silicon Valley entrepreneur now living in Miami.

With startup money from Kouri, the three co-founded the Internet company Zip2, which Compaq Computer Corp. bought for $307 million in 1999. Kouri then invested in Elon Musk’s next venture, the precursor to PayPal, which eBay bought for $1.5 billion in stock in 2002.

Musk later founded Tesla Motors and SpaceX, a space exploration operation. Kouri invested in both, as well as Bazaarvoice, a social media marketing enterprise.

He was vice president for business development at Altavista and chief operating office of BMAC Finance.

“Greg was an all-around upstanding human being,’’ said Daly. “One of the few good guys. Really honest.’’

Jack Abdo said his cousin was “very smart, very inquisitive, methodical, and very detailed.’’

Kouri, who learned real-estate investing from his father, Donald Kouri, came to Miami Beach in 2000. He met his future wife at a party.

“I was walking in and didn’t know a single person because the person who invited me wasn’t there yet,’’ Echemendia-Kouri said. “Greg’s elegant demeanor and good looks caught my eye. We started chatting and were inseparable from that day…His smile could light up a room and melt a heart.’’

She found him to be kind, caring, and always willing to “lend a hand or an ear.’’

They married in Montreal.

“One of his great passions was music,’’ she said, “beautiful, deep, soulful music. He’d sit in his office and listen to music all day.’’

He donated to the Vizcayans, Miami Children’s Hospital, Miami City Ballet, and several art museums, and loved skiing in Vail “surrounded by his friends,’’ his wife said.

When Kouri became a first-time father in his 40s, “he was smitten,’’ his wife said. “He loved my daughter like his own, but Vanessa was his little princess. He loved to take her on long walks in Central Park, and he taught her to ice skate and ski. He was truly a family man, which is why he didn’t want to live in Silicon Valley.’’

In addition to his wife, brother, father and daughters, Greg Kouri is survived by stepmother Diane Kouri, of Montreal. His mother was the late Marlene Y. Kouri.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Georges Antiochian Orthodox Church, 555-575 Jean Talon, E. Montreal. For information about visitation Sunday, call Urgel Bourgie funeral home, 514-735-2025.