By Adam Kluger
Andrea Catsimatidis, who goes by “A.J.” is surprisingly approachable, authentic and friendly when you meet her. As I have done on a couple of occasions now. Her Instagram account describes A.J. as a “billionaire heiress,” “business bombshell,” “jet-setter,” “NYC native,” “Manhattan Republican Party Chair,” “philanthropist,” and “footballer.” But you wouldn’t know any of that based on her unaffected nature and open demeanor. A.J.’s father, John Catsimatidis, the self-made billionaire owner of the New York City supermarket chain Gristedes Foods is a big reason why A.J. is who she is.
“The number one lesson I’ve learned from my dad is to be assertive, that in life you have to take advantage of your opportunities. Everybody in life has opportunities but it’s the people who are assertive enough to take advantage and recognize those opportunities that end up being successful. So that’s important and being a good person in general. I think part of the reason my dad was so successful in business is that he never tried to screw anyone over and he always wants to help people and I think all that positive energy that he always puts into everything came back to him a million times over. He does a lot of charity work he gives back to a lot of causes, especially for children. He loves supporting children he loves supporting education partly because he’s so fortunate that he came to the United States of America and got such a great education and that gave him the opportunity to succeed and he wants to make sure that others have that same opportunity in the future. And it’s not just philanthropy, throughout his career he’s saved thousands of jobs by turning around companies and that’s impacted the livelihoods of so many people as well.”
If Manhattan Republican Party Chair sounds like an important title, that’s because it kind of is. It’s a new job, one of her many jobs, that the young Catsimatidis takes quite seriously. The daughter of a Greek immigrant who became a business titan through education and hard work says the American Dream is still alive and well.
“Nothing means more to me than the United States of America and I love my country so much and what it stands for and how my dad came to this country when he was 9 months old as an immigrant from an island of 900 people. His dad worked 7 days a week as a busboy so my dad could go to college and only in America can someone come from absolutely nowhere and be able to found one of the biggest companies in the country…and just everything it means all the freedom and opportunity for all and I just want to make sure that lives on and I think that’s why I really wanted to get into politics was to help preserve that and fight for my country.”
It’s no secret that Bill and Hillary Clinton are old family friends, yet Catsimatidis says that it is the Republican Party’s historical policies and platform that convinced her to throw her support behind the GOP in NYC.
“Ever since I learned what it meant to be a Republican, those values really resonated with me. The idea of freedom and opportunity for all, being the party of women’s suffrage, being the party that gave African-Americans the right to vote, when the Democratic party turned them away. The party that kept taxes low so people could pull themselves out of poverty, all the ideas of individual freedoms and keeping the Government out of your lives, to me, that’s what it means to be an American and a Republican.”
Mixing business and politics has been a Catsimatidis family tradition. So much so that her dad once ran for Mayor of the City of New York and made a lot of new friends and admirers in the process. A.J. says she has a bunch of fond memories of her dad’s run for Mayor of NYC.
“He ran for Mayor and it was really exciting. We got to do a lot of campaign stops and meet a lot of people. Real people. And I think that was the best part of it. My dad has this amazing ability to connect with a lot of people because he cares about people no matter who they are. For instance, there was somebody the other day in our company, there was a supermarket employee and he had a problem and he called my dad and even though my dad is the CEO of this big company, he picked up the phone and listened to this guy’s problem and tried to help him and that’s just the kind of guy my dad is. it was beautiful to see people connect with him and be on the campaign trail and witness that.”
And while the young Catsimatidis admits to being an avid traveler, her heart she says belongs to the Big Apple. “I love the vibrancy of New York. I love being here and feeling alive 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So many cultures are represented here and you can go out and have any type of food from anywhere and see so many different people and get so many different perspectives. You feel very open to the world instead of closed.”
A self-described foodie, Catsimatidis isn’t shy to reveal some of her favorite NYC restaurants.
“My favorite restaurant is Nobu57, I spend a lot of time there. I love the vibe. I love the food. I love the people, always great to be there. And I love Omar’s I always see lots of friends there.” Working out, staying fit and maintaining an enviable figure requires a major commitment of time and energy but the results, A.J. says, are well worth it.
“Working out is really important to me because I love my fitness obviously and also it’s just a great stress reliever given how busy I am with my business life and my political life and my social life and it’s kind of a way to decompress. I usually work out between 5-7 days a week, depending on how much time I have. I love to do barre because it’s great for toning the feminine figure. So I do a lot of that. I do a lot of intermittent fasting because that’s the only thing that really works for me because I’m not the kind of person that just wants to eat salad. I love pizza. I love pasta. I love steak. I love chocolate cake and I love to eat all of these things so then I just fast intermittently and I can have all these foods that I love and not give up anything and food brings me so much joy I can’t imagine giving up any of it.”
AJ clearly has no shame in her game as she is always ready to rock a bikini upon request!
“I think the main thing is to love yourself and if you genuinely love yourself you can be confident about who you are and be able to express yourself and that’s the one thing about me… I am always unapologetic in being myself. I love who I am so I’m not afraid to express it. I feel very fortunate that I live in the United States of America where I can express myself without being censored in any way, wear the clothes I want to wear, express my femininity and be who I am.”
The question is, however, what does her dad think about her daughter showing off her “assets?” “He likes the person that I am and that I’m not afraid to express myself.”
Catsimatidis and her dad remain very close. A.J. is intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of her dad’s various businesses. What does she do?
“I have a wide range of responsibilities. Most of the time I spend is in the real estate division where we are managing properties that we own and developing new ones, so, sometimes I visit the construction sites and see how that’s going or attend architect meetings and get involved in the planning of a new building. But, I also spend a lot of time on the investment side meeting with potential companies to invest in. I’m really passionate about the biotech space. I invest in a lot of organ disease companies where previously people had no hope for treatment and now all of a sudden, they have some hope for a cure or something to at least make them better and it’s just a beautiful experience for these people all of a sudden to have their lives and livelihoods restored and also have it be a good investment as well, so I really enjoy that side of the business but I’m involved in pretty much everything–so people will see me walking around the supermarkets checking up on things so I’m involved with that too. Everything from the bottom to the top.”
So, as the Manhattan Republican Party Chair, it’s no surprise that the young Catsimatidis has a pretty favorable opinion on how President Trump, an old family friend, is doing at his job.
“I’m really excited that President Trump is not backing down. There are so many people that if they were in that position, if they were attacked by somebody they would back off and say “oh you know maybe I was wrong or you know this or that, “ But you know he stuck to his guns he knows what he is doing and what he is doing is working and he is one of the only people I know that will stand up for what he believes in spite of the opposition that he is receiving and I really respect that and I’m so happy to have him and I feel so fortunate that he is saving America and he’s done such a fantastic job. The economy is growing at record numbers, the stock market is at an all-time high, unemployment is at record lows and we are just doing so well. America is thriving and it’s exciting. “
President Trump is obviously good friends with her dad– but is the POTUS on A.J.’s speed-dial as well?
“Obviously he’s a very busy man, so I talk a lot less to him now that he’s the President but I’ve known him since I was a little kid and he’s always been really kind and genuine to me and when I was getting married a long time ago, his daughter had just gotten married maybe one or two years before I did and so my dad called him for advice on my wedding and when I saw Donald Trump I think it was on Valentine’s Day, one year he stopped me and he told me the story about how he spoke to my dad and he basically convinced my dad to give me my dream wedding and it was really special that he lobbied on my behalf, eternally grateful for that.”
That wedding was to her now-ex-husband Christopher Nixon Cox, who just happens to be the grandson of former U.S. President Richard Nixon. That must have made for interesting dinner conversations!
“President Nixon was such an amazing President he did so much in such a short amount of time. A lot of people don’t realize everything that he did in terms of equal funding for women in sports with title 9 and minority entrepreneurship and everything that he did to open the doors to China and he was just such a visionary and Chris my ex-husband he inherited his grandfather’s eye for foreign policy. He’s one of the kindest and most intelligent people I know so just always hearing his perspective on things because he is still one of my best friends to this day like I always love getting his advice because his understanding of the world and international politics is amazing.”
So, what does the “Manhattan Republican Party Chair,” actually do?
“My main job is to find candidates get them on the ballot–to make sure we have candidates on the ballot keep the party going–but I kind of took this role a little bit further and act as a general cheerleader for the party and the President just creating a general buzz and having events letting people know what we are about, rebranding the party.”
Re-branding the GOP?
“We’re trying to make it more of a big tent party
in New York City. So, I would say that all of the candidates that we ran are fiscally conservative, and pro-law enforcement but at the same time more liberal on social issues. We ran two gay candidates last time around so all of our candidates are pro-gay marriage and very prochoice.”
A.J who seems to be a natural for politics-much in the same way her friend Kimberly Guilfoyle has energized the GOP does not shy away from what she calls her civic duty in supporting the GOP and President Trump but readily admits that she prefers business to politics in the end.
“I would say that politics is really not one of my personal goals. Really, I see my job as the Chair of the Republican Party here in Manhattan as more of my service to the country because I care so much about this country and my party and this is my way to get involved and give back a little bit but beyond that, I don’t really have any political aspirations. I really enjoy the business side a lot more and I find that I can make a big impact on that side. I love the Real Estate business. I want to be able to build bigger buildings and shape new skylines and make more investments to grow the company but also to do good as well.”
So, with all her many jobs and responsibilities does A.J. ever find time for fun? Travel, food, and football are some of A.J.’s guilty pleasures.
“I love to travel. I love Mykonos. I love Hawaii it’s so beautiful there I go to Miami a lot we live so close and you get New York quality food but better weather and I just have a lot of friends down there and I enjoy that but also one thing that I used to sort of do and I kind of just gave it up recently because I’m so busy but I played on a co-ed football team–so that was a really fun thing to do… I’m a huge foodie. I love eating. Hanging out with friends, being social, I love to cook and bake, I love dessert…big on dessert especially chocolate!
Which begs the question about A.J.’s thoughts on Metropolitan Magazine’s (and Kim Kardashian’s) favorite Greek Restaurant in New York City, Nerai?
“The food is really good there!”