My Pal Antoni

Spectator - April 2002

Spectator — April 2002

By Tom Fexas

My Pal Antonio
How I made a boatbuilder rich.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: My Pal
• Part 2: My Pal
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You’ve seen the phony infomercial ads on TV. There is usually a wealthy-looking guy with a Dan Rather haircut sitting in his expensive Florida backyard. Off to his left is a palatial house, with a kidney-shape pool behind him and an exotic 80-foot yacht at the dock to the right. Between the guy and the pool is a Lamborghini and a big Bentley stocked with bikini-clad women right out of Playboy magazine. "Follow the rules in my books," he says (the bikinis get out of the cars and start frolicking in the pool with a beach ball), "and you, too, can have all of this." Of course, this guy does not have the power to make anyone rich–other than himself. Your Spectator, however, does seem to have that power.

From Five Stars to a Tenement
In the beginning, Antonio picked my wife Regina and me up at the airport in a nondescript station wagon and put us up in one of the finest five-star hotels in his country (wood-paneled rooms, cold air conditioning, cable TV, quality restaurants, swimming pool–the works). At the end, about two years later, Antonio picked us up in a Rolls Royce and put us up in a crummy tenement that he owned (we had to clean the place up ourselves and make the bed). My first impulse was to call a cab and bail to a real hotel, but Regina thought it would be impolite. And so, in the name of politeness, we suffered. What had transpired between the station wagon and the Rolls?

The Set Up
I met my "pal" Antonio at a major boat show where he had admired a couple of our big boats on display. Antonio owned a small company that built midrange boats "splashed" (copied without permission) from 30-year-old designs. His company was badly in need of rejuvenation, but Antonio always did okay for himself, although he had never been wealthy. After dancing around for about two years, Antonio came to my office ready to commission a breakthrough new design. When producing designs for a volume-production boat, boat designers usually make little or no money on the initial design but make it up big time in royalties as boats are built over the years. Antonio was a cool customer. Not only did he commission the design and leave a deposit so that we could get started, but he also volunteered to pay us royalties for six boats in advance. What a guy! Clients don’t get much better than this.

Next page > Part 2: The Con Job... > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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