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Michael Jaharis dead; Kos Pharmaceuticals Inc. founder was 87

Michael Jaharis, who founded and then sold Kos Pharmaceuticals Inc. and used his wealth to help build a university science center and endow permanent museum exhibitions, has died. He was 87.

He died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan, Peggy Sotirhos Nicholson, executive director of the Jaharis Family Foundation, his New York-based philanthropy, said Thursday in an e-mailed statement.

“Mr. Jaharis was here every day,” Nicholson said in a telephone interview. “He’s someone who could have been anywhere in the world, but he loved interaction with people.”

A former pharmaceutical salesman, Jaharis acquired Miami- based Key Pharmaceuticals in 1972 with partner Phillip Frost. During his tenure as chief executive officer, the company introduced Theo-Dur, a sustained-release asthma remedy, and Nitro-Dur, a transdermal angina drug. In 1986, Key merged with Schering-Plough Corp. in a $836 million deal.

Two years later, Jaharis founded Kos, based in Cranbury, New Jersey, and named after Hippocrates’ Greek island birthplace. Kos, which produced the so-called good cholesterol drug Niaspan, an extended-release version of the B vitamin niacin, was sold to Abbott Laboratories for $3.7 billion in late 2006.

Jaharis and his family held 52 percent of Kos, according to the company’s March 2006 proxy statement. He ranked No. 307 on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans in 2015, with an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion.

Venture Capital

In 2007, he co-founded New York-based Vatera Healthcare Partners LLC, a venture capital firm focused on biopharmaceutical investments in areas such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, celiac disease and cancer.

“He was remarkable not only for his business acumen and instincts, but also for his tremendous kindness and generosity,” Kevin Ferro, Vatera’s CEO, said in an e-mailed statement.

Emmanuel Michael Jaharis was born July 16, 1928, in Evanston, Illinois, to Michael and Katerina Jaharis, both Greek immigrants, according to a biography provided by Nicholson.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Carroll College, now called Carroll University, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1950, and later worked full-time to put himself through law school, graduating from Chicago’s DePaul University in 1958. In between, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, helping to manage medical and pharmaceutical supplies in Zell am See, Austria.

Early Career

Jaharis worked for Miles Laboratories in Chicago from his law school days to 1972, first as a sales representative and then as vice president and executive legal counsel.

He and his wife, Mary, founded the Jaharis Family Foundation in 1986, which endowed permanent exhibitions in Greek and Byzantine art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2013, during Greece’s fiscal crisis, the foundation pledged $2 million to help relieve hunger and poverty there.

Jaharis was a trustee of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, from 1993 to 2003, trustee emeritus and chairman of the board of overseers for its School of Medicine and Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. His son, Steven, graduated from Tufts’s medical school in 1987.

His $10 million matching gift helped build the Jaharis Family Center for Biomedical and Nutrition Sciences, which opened on Tufts’s Boston campus in 2002. He received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from the school in 2015.

He also served on the Columbia University Medical Center’s board of visitors and the board of overseers of the Weill Cornell Medical College and Graduate School of Medical Sciences. He was vice chairman of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America made him an “Archon Exarchos of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle,” one of the highest honors bestowed on a layman.

“He was a humanitarian above all else,” Nicholson said. “He was very passionate about medical research and the arts, and was very proud of his Greek heritage.”

He is survived by his wife, the former Mary Spyros, children Steven and Kathryn, and five grandchildren.

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