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Briatore, Formula 1 team boss, expands „Billionaire” boutiques

Flavio Briatore, the Italian millionaire who runs the Renault Formula One motor-racing team, opens his fifth „Billionaire” fashion boutique today in Vienna, the first of 10 new stores planned for the next four months.

Briatore, a 56-year-old Italian, said he plans to have as many as 20 outlets worldwide by 2009, each selling what he calls „Italian Couture” items such as shirts with watches built into the cuffs and ties adorned with crystal buttons. Speaking in a February 27 interview as stocks tumbled around the world, Briatore said his target audience of wealthy males is unlikely to be affected by a drop in asset values.
Clients include David Beckham, the world's highest-paid soccer player, former James Bond actor Roger Moore and Harrods Ltd. owner Mohammed Al-Fayed. „We are a very small niche,” Briatore said in the Knightsbridge, London, office of his designer, Angelo Galasso. „If you have a niche, you are quite protected.” A former director of Benetton Group SpA, Briatore has two Billionaire outlets in London, one in Moscow and opened a store in Tokyo's central business district in October.
Prices range from £150 ($294) for a hand-made tie to £18,000 for a bespoke tailored suit with platinum thread. Billionaire is also selling a range of men's jewelry, including pendants with the firm's „B” logo and a watch with a gold-enameled dial and surrounded by 44 rectangular-shaped diamonds. Prices range from £5,000 to £500,000. Briatore, wearing a black top, blue jeans and ankle-length boots with a pink flame on the sole, said it makes more business sense to have men as Billionaire's target clientele.

„In the end, the person with the wallet is the man,” said Briatore, who used to date supermodel Heidi Klum. Briatore teamed up with Galasso to found Billionaire Italian Couture two years ago, naming it after his nightclub on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The Billionaire Club had revenue of €5.3 million ($7 million) to €5.4 million in June through September 2006 and profit of €600,000 to €700,000.
It's too early to give figures for the couture company, Briatore said. His next project is a luxury beach resort in Malindi, Kenya, that's due to open in the next two or three months, he said. The venue will have 25 „super-suites,” 20 apartments of up to 1,000 square meters (10,764 square feet), four villas also of 1,000 square meters plus a casino and nightclub.
If the resort is a success, Briatore plans to extend the model to other countries. „Billionaire is a bit of a game,” he said. „People in Italy think that I live only thanks to Billionaire. Then it becomes a communication phenomenon because everyone talks about it, good or bad.” (Bloomberg)