While working at his first company, Armstrong Warden, he met Joan Price. She also worked as a beautician, wrote for The Queen (later Harper’s & Queen) and opened two trendy beauty salons in Chelsea called Joan Price’s Face Place.
The couple married in 1956 in Grosvenor Chapel and it was there, later, that Betjeman spotted “the most beautiful creature … I didn’t even know her name”. The poet’s daughter, Candida Lycett Green, identified Joan Constantinidi as the subject of “Lenten Thoughts of a High Anglican”, the last line of which describes her as “a clue to the unknown God”.
Michael Constantinidi, meanwhile, had moved to SH Benson, where he worked, among other things, on the famous Guinness account. In 1963 he played a leading role in the Cold War when, with relations with the superpowers improving after the near-catastrophe of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he organized a delegation of British announcers to visit the USSR.
The trip included a contingent of The Sunday Times, whose owner, Roy Thomson (Lord Thomson of Fleet), boarded the plane to Moscow with foreign correspondent Tom Stacey. Hearing about the delegation, Nikita Khrushchev invited Thomson and Stacey for an interview while Constantinidi entertained potential customers outside with shots of caviar.
After SH Benson’s merger with Ogilvy & Mather in 1971, Constantinidi left to form his own agency, BCB, with two colleagues. He remained there until the early 90s.
Retirement, however, was just the spur to expanding his athletic interests, and he took to real tennis, playing at Queen’s and Lord’s, of which he had been a member since 1955. In 1996, when the post of president As Eton Fives (EFA) became vacant, it has been suggested that he run against Tony Hughes, an excellent former player with a division reputation. Constantinidi was duly elected and showed typical charm in smoothing out any acrimony in the race.
He then deployed his great energy and business acumen to put EFA on a more professional basis and was also a key figure in the construction of four new Fives courts – the first built for the public since the 1930s – in the Westway Sports Center, West London. The courts opened in 2001 with the explicit aim of expanding participation in the game and they remain a vital development for Fives.
Michael Constantinidi was an engaging, talkative company and an irrepressible enthusiast. He and Joan didn’t have children, but they gathered their many friends over Sunday lunches around a menu (roast beef, chocolate and apple pies) that has remained unchanged for decades.
She survives him, as does her twin and occasionally Fives teammate George, whom Michael jokingly continued to blame for their loss in Eton’s House Fives competition until they were eighty.
Michael Constantinidi, born June 28, 1928, died February 7, 2019