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  1. #1
    Registered VIP Member Phantom1's Avatar
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    Cigarette/Skip Braver Article

    Posted on Mon, Jun. 26, 2006

    Cigarette boat racing team speeding forwardSkip Braver, owner of Cigarette Racing Team, guides his firm ahead after years of rough waters

    [email protected]

    Cigarette Racing Team has long been a symbol of the South Florida fast life. Its long, sleek powerboats boast top speeds of over 100 mph, feature bold designs and appear in ads with nearly naked women.

    But now, Cigarette is about to aim for baby boomers with a product better suited for a day out with the wife and kids than for picking up babes.

    The newly designed Cigarette sport-fishing boat is the latest effort by owner Skip Braver to turn Cigarette into a stable business after a tumultuous past.

    Braver, a beefy 54-year-old who's easily mistaken for actor James Gandolfini, a.k.a. Tony Soprano, bought the company in 2002 as it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Braver has since moved the company to $13 million digs on about 10 acres in Opa-locka, where it does, among other things, its own airbrushing and embroidery. He also has built on the Cigarette name with an expanded merchandise line that includes $1,500 watches and $1,000 leather jackets.

    ''The things we've done in a short period of time -- I'm bragging right now -- are amazing,'' Braver said in a recent interview at his office, where dark upholstered furniture contrasts with the flashy muscle boats on view from his window overlooking the factory floor.

    'For years, it was, `Who owns it this week?' It's a real company now,'' he said.

    The new sport-fishing boat, which is expected to make its debut at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October, is perhaps Braver's biggest risk yet. Until now, Cigarette has focused exclusively on powerboats, the kind made famous by the hit TV show Miami Vice.

    Braver said he saw an opportunity to cater to some of Cigarette's wealthiest customers, who are likely to own not just one type of boat, but several. Two years in the making, the sport-fishing boat has enough names on a waiting list to sustain at least 24 months of production, he said.

    ''Our demographic is changing. Baby boomers are getting older,'' said spokeswoman Marilyn DeMartini. ``The husband might be out there ripping it up in the Cigarette, but the wife may want to go out and do something more mellow.''


    Braver, a father of two grown children who resides in a waterfront home near Miami's Venetian Causeway, made his fortune selling consumer electronics in the Midwest. He then developed luxury homes in Colorado and returned to Chicago to become a car dealer for General Motors and Chrysler.

    Cigarette was founded in 1969 by Don Aronow, who made millions in the New Jersey construction industry. His plan was to retire to South Florida, but he got sucked into powerboat racing.

    Over the next decade, Aronow sold go-fast boats to George Bush Sr., Princess Caroline of Monaco and King Hussein of Jordan. In 1987, he was shot and killed on 188th Street in north Miami-Dade County.

    Cigarette went through more than six owners before Braver bought it in 2002 for $11.5 million. At the time, Cigarette operated out of an antiquated 30,000-square-foot plant on Thunderboat Row, near the spot where Aronow was killed.

    After failing to get government approval to build an 87,000-square-foot plant in Hialeah Gardens, Braver moved to 200,000 square feet of space in Opa-locka. Metal work and embroidery, previously doled out to contractors, was brought in-house. An airbrush artist also came onboard.

    Today, Braver and his minority partner, Neill Hernandez, who joined the company after high school, oversee a staff of 115. Every boat is made to order, taking between two and four months to complete. Price tags range from $300,000 to $1 million and up.

    ''The quality of boats is probably the best it's ever been,'' said Phil Lipschutz, president of Lip-Ship Performance, a Cigarette dealer in North Miami.

    ''He's one of the first owners who didn't run the company as a hobby shop,'' Lipschutz said of Braver. ``It was a status symbol to say you owned Cigarette. But Skip has hung in there the longest and done the most with the company. He's there everyday, and he runs it like a business.''

    Cigarette makes 75 to 80 boats a year -- a number that's remained constant since Braver took over -- and has several well-established competitors, including Donzi Marine, Formula and Fountain. Braver said he keeps output steady to ensure strong resale values, a popular notion with his buyers.


    Rising interest rates and gas prices have cut into sales of less expensive boats, but Braver said they're not hurting his business. Lipschutz agreed, adding, ''We're lucky that the majority of our customers are very wealthy people.'' On the downside, Lipschutz said sales of used Cigarettes -- which range in price from $100,000 to $150,000 -- have slowed in the wake of rising gas prices.

    The industry as a whole has been selling fewer of the big-ticket items than it once did. Nearly 4,100 new ''high performance'' boats -- a category that includes Cigarette -- were sold last year, virtually the same as in 2004, according to Miami-based market research firm Info-Link Technologies. The industry sold nearly 5,230 in 2000.

    ''Guys like Cigarette are doing well because they have a niche of high-end clientele. They're not as affected, so to speak, by the economy,'' said Gregg Mansfield, editor of Powerboat, a California-based magazine with 55,000 subscribers. ``The slowdown is really in the entry-level market.''

    Cigarette and other powerboat makers might get a boost from the release next month of the movie Miami Vice. Director Michael Mann visited Cigarette last year and asked for a few boats to use in the film.

    ''He's a really nice guy,'' Braver said, adding, however, that he declined to give in to Mann's request. The movie instead features Donzi and MTI powerboats.

    ''I told him I'd give him a deal on some boats, so to speak, but we weren't just going to give him any,'' Braver said.


    Cigarette Racing Team• Owners: Skip Braver and minority partner Neill Hernandez.

    • Founded: In 1969 by Don Aronow, who was later gunned down on Thunderboat Row in north Miami-Dade County.

    • What it does: Makes and sells powerboats ranging in price from $300,000 to more than $1 million.

    • Location: Opa-locka.

    • Customers include: Singer Enrique Iglesias, former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan ''Pudge'' Rodriquez.

    • Fast-growing markets: Dubai, Russia, Italy, France.

    • Notable quote: 'We've had unbelievable deals to move to South Carolina and North Carolina -- `I'll give you a plant for $1 and you own it after 20 years' -- but we'll always be in Miami. We're proud to be in Miami.'' -- Skip Braver.

  2. #2
    Registered Son of a Gun's Avatar
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    Re: Cigarette/Skip Braver Article

    Good read. I wonder how many of the fishing boats will be says there are enough orders to keep them busy for 24 months, but I wonder how many boats that'll be. I'd imagine the layup time would be different than the average Cigarette.

  3. #3
    Gold Member Gold Member thedonz's Avatar
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    Re: Cigarette/Skip Braver Article

    are they still keeping the original name they were going to give it " TopFish"

    It is a Skater Nation!

  4. #4
    Mod Squad Enforcer Charter Member Cash Bar's Avatar
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    Re: Cigarette/Skip Braver Article

    Quote Originally Posted by thedonz
    are they still keeping the original name they were going to give it " TopFish"

    That's what I always called the girls on the sunpad.....
    Your OSO connection to great S. Florida Real Estate.

  5. #5
    Registered eyezlee's Avatar
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    Re: Cigarette/Skip Braver Article

    He bought the company for 11.5 mil? Damn that seems like a steal.

  6. #6
    Registered Semper Fi's Avatar
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    Re: Cigarette/Skip Braver Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom1
    Braver, a beefy 54-year-old who's easily mistaken for actor James Gandolfini, a.k.a. Tony Soprano, bought the company in 2002 as it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.
    Tony Soprano? Whatever What was the article writer thinking???

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom1
    Cigarette went through more than six owners before Braver bought it in 2002 for $11.5 million.

    Price tags range from $300,000 to $1 million and up.

    Cigarette makes 75 to 80 boats a year -- a number that's remained constant since Braver took over --
    Things that make you go hmmmmm. Skip buys Cigarette for $11.5 mil and builds approx. 75 boats a yr x minumum price of $300K= $22.5 mil minimum sales..........looks like Skip is doing ok
    Last edited by Semper Fi; 06-28-2006 at 05:35 PM.

  7. #7
    Registered 375stinger's Avatar
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    Re: Cigarette/Skip Braver Article

    I think i would have given up a few boats to be in the movie

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