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305From the Baseline to the Bottom Line

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  • grfranklin53
    Aug 3, 2007
      (Yes, bumper stickers sound like a good idea.)

      From the New York Times, Sunday, July 29, 2007, Sports section page 3


      By Bloomberg News

      When Andre Agassi played professional tennis, he was careful to not
      do anything that could risk injury.
      "I wasn't allowed to go off a diving board," he said.
      Since retiring in 2006, Agassi, 37 has become a risk taker: He
      snowboards. He wears a helmet but refuses forearm guards, which are
      de rigueur in a sport known for broken wrists.
      "He got bitten hard," his wife, Steffi Graf, said of Agassi's
      obsession. Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam singles titles, prefers
      skiing. They play almost no tennis.
      Agassi and Graf, 38, are taking even bigger chances with their money.
      A few years ago, they visited western Idaho, a hinterland of cattle
      and sagebrush, looking for a place to spend time with their son,
      Jaden, 5, and daughter, Jaz, 3.
      The couple, whose career tennis winnings exceeded $50 million, not
      counting endorsements, bought a house at a new ski resort called
      Tamarack in Long Valley. For decades, it was a secluded playground
      for the gentry in Boise, 100 miles downriver. Idahoans went to fish
      and boat on Big Payette Lake, below mountain ridges that hold snow
      long into summer.
      Now, Agassi and Graf plan to build a Fairmont hotel there. If all
      goes as planned, it will be the first Fairmont with a rock-climbing
      wall and a machine that simulates kayaking. There will be a bowling
      alley, too.
      It will be a condominium hotel, meaning that people will buy the
      rooms, use them when they want and let the hotel rent them when they
      are not using them. Selling the 224 rooms and 69 penthouses - and 50
      private homes on the mountain - is expected to bring in $600 million
      for Agassi Graf Development LLC and its partner, Bayview Financial,
      LP in Coral Gables, Florida.
      The Fairmont Tamarack is part of a hyperactive second career in real
      estate and hospitality for Agassi and Graf. Among their other
      projects: a luxury vacation development in Costa Rica with Exclusive
      Resorts LLC, a string of restaurants with the San Francisco chef
      Michael Mina and a joint venture with the high-end furniture maker
      Kreiss Enterprises.
      In their spare time, Agassi and Graf run foundations. Agassi's opened
      a kindergarten through 12th grade public charter school in 2001 in a
      rough part of Las Vegas, where Agassi grew up. The singer Elton John
      is on the board. Graf's provides psychological help to children who
      have been the victims of war and exile.
      To hear Agassi and Graf tell it, their business ventures came about
      by chance. They said they liked Idaho and decided to build. Agassi
      said he and Steve Case, the co-founder of America Online and the
      owner of Exclusive Resorts, had too much in common not to do
      something together. Agassi and Graf said they always liked Kreiss
      furniture and often asked for tweaks to pieces they bought, so they
      did their own line.
      "It's been a pretty organic process," Agassi said.
      Agassi and Graf say they are doing more than putting their
      recognizable names on things. Many advertisements for the Fairmont do
      not mention them. Agassi and Graf are deep into the details.
      The furniture maker Mike Kreiss, a former United States Open tennis
      player, said Agassi and Graf pored over fabrics and designs before
      coming out with their line of chairs and couches, all chocolate brown
      and cream colored, called the Agassi Graf Collection. Her taste runs
      toward clean, symmetrical lines. He likes things a little cushier and
      textured. "They're excited, disciplined and specific," Kreiss said.
      Agassi has been to Costa Rica at least twice to help plan a resort
      with Exclusive Resorts.
      I'm 15 years removed from sticking my name to stuff," Agassi said. "I
      want to be a partner, not a spokesperson."
      Agassi and Graf run their companies out of an office on Howard Hughes
      Parkway in Las Vegas. Graf, born in Mannheim, in Germany's wooded
      south, moved there reluctantly. Her mother and brother went along,
      making the place feel more like home.
      "Living in Vegas speaks volumes of her love for me," said Agassi,
      sitting on the deck at the lodge at Tamarack on a sunny June day. "It
      was culture shock."
      If Agassi and Graf are half as successful in real estate as they were
      in tennis, they will make a fortune. So far, it appears as if they
      may have another winner.
      They sold their first batch of units in March. Buyers snapped up all
      125 in seven hours, paying a total of $140 million. Among them: Matt
      Leinart, quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals; and Jose Cruz Jr. of
      the San Diego Padres.
      As they near middle age, Agassi and Graf seem more willing to take
      chances - with their money and their limbs. If they wanted to play it
      safe, they could have stayed in tennis as coaches or commentators.
      Tamarack, site of their biggest post-tennis project, has yet to build
      a single court.
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