Fabio: 365 Fitness Franchise
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Date: May 2, 2007
The Brash Name Behind a Franchise
Fabio. Well, That about says it all.
Guys want to be him. Girls want to be with him. But will club owners want to join his new 365 Fitness franchise?
Fabio's ability to make women swoon spared him from what likely would have been a fairly mundane life. Growing up in Milan, Fabio — then known by his full name of Fabio Lanzoni — was groomed to take over his father's engineering business, which created assembly lines for products such as cars and airplane wings. As a teenager, he held two jobs, painting parts at his father's plant and modeling for both designers and magazines, including Italian Vogue. "My father was against modeling," Fabio recalls. "It was fine if I was modeling after work or after school, but he would never let me take a day off of school. He was always saying, 'You get a real job. None of that mannequin stuff.'"
Undeterred, at age 19 — shortly after completing a mandatory two-year stint in the Italian army — Fabio moved to the United States to model full-time. A contract with the elite modeling agency Ford landed him print campaigns for The Gap, Levi's Jeans and more.
But at age 28, the romance industry began courting him. He first appeared on "Hearts Aflame" in 1987. "Savage Splendor," "A Breath of Paradise" and "The Viking's Bride" swiftly followed. Publisher Avon Books estimated his image increased sales by as much as 33% when he appeared on the cover with a woman — and a whopping 45% when he appeared alone. Ironically, the romance novel covers that spurred Fabio to fame generated little fortune. He was paid just $3,000 for each photo session, each of which turned out about 16 cover poses. "I didn't own the copyright," he recalls, "so they could do whatever they wanted with the photos in those sessions." Cover artists used the same pose for multiple covers.
In 1991, Fabio retired from modeling (although he still posed for book covers) and moved from New York to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. "You have to have fun with life, have less fear, follow your instinct," he says. But major acting roles failed to materialize — although he did land an uncredited appearance in "The Exorcist III" and a short-lived TV series called "Acapulco H.E.A.T." as well as other small parts. Then manager Peter Paul helped him bank on his fame as the king of romance, producing Fabio-branded products like a calendar and Barry White-style romance CD called "Fabio After Dark." Paul also landed him a contract to write romance novels of his own. With the help of ghostwriters, Fabio churned out eight. He was given a $100,000 advance for the first three, which were published in 1993-94 and sold more than two million copies.
Today, with dress shirts still perpetually unbuttoned, Fabio peddles everything from women's coats at Sam's Club to fitness centers targeting baby boomers to the new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Mediterranean Blend. (Fabio declined to share his net worth, or specific numbers about how much money his projects pull in.) In 2002, he invested $100,000 to start the Sam's Club line, called — you guessed it, FABIO — which offers jackets priced under $100. He has said the line netted more than $10 million in sales during the first two years. In December, he signed on as part owner and spokesman for 365 Fitness, a new line of franchised gyms for which he'll market fitness apparel and supplements. There are currently five locations on the East Coast, with two more in the works.
Now approaching age 50, Fabio isn't afraid to poke fun at the aging process. A 2006 Super Bowl commercial for the Nationwide Insurance "Life comes at you fast" campaign showed him first in Fabio-licious form as a gondolier hawking shampoo — and then as an old man. The point? That everyone needs to prepare for a solid financial future. "When you take yourself too seriously, you limit yourself," he says.
When it comes to his own financial future, Fabio prefers to manage his money himself. "I have a business manager, but I do most with my brother [Walter, a retired investment banker]," says Fabio. "He's very good in the stock market." Fabio follows his brother's lead, investing in everything from stocks to currency. "There was a time when he was making a lot of money playing the dollar against the yen," he says.
Fabio is also an unabashed spender, wielding an American Express card that bears only his first name. "I like to enjoy life," he says. "My father always taught me, 'If you make $100, spend $10.' I'm more, 'Make $100; spend $50.' I like to think I keep up the American economy."
Take, for example, Fabio's car and motorcycle collection: He estimates he has more than 200, including a 1999 Championship Ducati and a limited-edition Porsche. Most recently he bought the just-released 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo. Base price? $195,000. "I wake up in the morning, look in the garage and think, 'Hmm, which one do I want to ride today?'" he says. "Sometimes I pull three or four, and I'll ride them all in one day."
Fabio's love nest is a three-acre property in Tarzana, Calif., purchased in 2000 for a reported $1.5 million. The six-bedroom house is wired with a multimillion-dollar sound system. His screening room alone contains more than $2 million worth of audio-visual equipment.
Not surprisingly, Romantic Times' so-called "God of Romance" also shells out a hefty amount on wining and dining. "I'm a gentleman," he says. "I still like to bring a woman to a nice restaurant and treat her well." And what about a Mrs. Fabio? Fabio says he won't settle down until he finds the perfect woman. "My parents have been happily married for more than 50 years," he says. "I don't mind squeezing the melons until I find the right one."
My first job was: When I was a teenager, my father sent me to work for him at his company building assembly lines.
This was thier interview:
Are you a spender or a saver? Spender. Definitely a spender.
I knew I'd succeeded financially when: I bought my first apartment in New York City; a three-bedroom apartment in a high-rise building on the Upper East Side. I was 28.
The last purchase of $10,000 or more that I made: My 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo (base price $195,000). It doesn't get more fully loaded than my car.
The one thing I regretted buying: The Hummer H1 I bought in the early '90s, before GM bought the brand. It was a piece of crap.
Always buy the best: Of whatever you like most. Then you'll always be happy with what you've bought. For me, that's motorcycles.
Always buy the cheapest: Pencils and pens. Even the cheapest serves its purpose.
When it comes to investing, I'm: Aggressive — but sometimes conservative. It's like love. Sometimes you've got to be very aggressive, sometimes you're conservative.
My biggest money indulgence: Motorcycles. I love Yamaha. They're fast, well made and reliable. They also have a bullet-proof motor. It will never leave you on the street.
What's the best money advice you've ever received? My father said, "You get $10, you spend $1. You get $100, you spend $10."
What's the best money advice you can offer? Save. You have to save so when you go through a hard time, you're not saying, "Oh my God! What am I gonna do now?"
Fabio is quoted as saying: "Physical fitness has always been an important part of my life. The key to a healthy lifestyle is balance and the appreciation of three key factors: Spirituality, Power of the Body and Power of the Mind. A healthy body is a cornerstone for a happy and healthy life."
He will be partnering with 365 Fitness in the development and promotion of related fitness products, vitamin supplements, as well as a clothing line.
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Copyright © 2007Donamaie E. White
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Remember that boxers or briefs is not an appropriate question.