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Masters of Modern Luxury: Greg Norman

Photo by Mark Ashman

Few athletes have made the transition from winning on the field to winning in the boardroom as smoothly as Greg Norman has. Since turning pro in 1976, Norman has captured 91 golf tournaments worldwide, including two British Opens. The 58-year-old Australian’s business ventures have built on his golf success—sportswear, course design—as well as his personal passions, such as winemaking. In every endeavor, Norman says he follows one rule: “Over-deliver on quality, under-deliver on price.”

Spoils of Success

Luxury is relative. It applies to everyone, whether they’re making $30,000 a year or $300 million. It’s giving yourself a reward for your hard work. You assess the cost and say, “I’m good with that; I’m going to spoil myself.”

Luxury is still out there, but it’s done in a much more subdued fashion nowadays. You have to manage what you want. For me, sometimes it’s going out to dinner and ordering a jar of beluga caviar. It’s also owning a ranch in Colorado where I can enjoy the summers in a world I love. Could I rent a ranch and enjoy the same experience? Absolutely not.

The Art of the Acquisition

You don’t buy a luxury item just to sell it. You want to have it around, so you look at its value. I don’t overspend; I don’t pay a 300 percent markup. I look for a good deal and make sure the item is sustainable, meaning I can have it a long time and enjoy it. It might depreciate or it might go up, like art, which I’ve recently gotten into. Is art a luxury item? Absolutely. Is it an investment? Absolutely.

Charting a Course

I’m presently building a golf course in Vietnam, part of a $1.5 billion project catering to Asian travelers. Designing a high-end resort, you must understand what the developer is looking for and build that into your project. You have to understand his vertical structure and the scope of service so what you put on the ground is in sync. That’s also true at a public course, like Pompano Beach, which we redid in Florida. Working with a very tight budget, we made sure every dollar went as far as it possibly could so the public golfer can play what feels like a new course. For him, that’s a luxury.

Made to Last

I’m a venture partner with Beringer Vineyards—not just a celebrity with my name on the label. A lot of celebrities fall off because their use-by date is done. Not me. We’re talking right now about rebranding and repositioning Greg Norman Wines because we want to double our volume by 2017. We’re coming out with a new label, talking about fixing the varietal or the blend, and reintroducing it. You have to do that, just like on a golf course or on a house that you repaint and maintain. We’re also seeing changes in wine consumption. For example, the Chinese are starting to enjoy—not just collect but drink—wine. However, they’d rather go out and drink wine than stay at home, so the market has to be approached differently.

Ship Shape

I built a yacht in Australia. I loved the process because I love building things, putting my imagination out there. Will I do it again? I’d love to, but now isn’t the right time. Also, having a boat that costs 10 percent of the acquisition price every year just sitting there doesn’t make sense.

A Living Brand

I think it’s a luxury to be a living brand. But the older I’ve become, the more I am aware of public perception. Sometimes you’ve got to fly under the radar screen, to show respect to the rest of the world. With social media all around, I have to be aware of what I do, what I say. Among other athletes, I’d say Michael Jordan carries himself well and has a great brand. As for other golfers, I’ll say this humbly, I think I’m ahead of them because I’ve never shied away from the responsibility of placing the game first and developing golf on a global basis. I’ve been a global player from day one, and I’ve never lost sight of that.

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