ChairmanMarina B and Windsor Jewelers Inc.
Well-known in the trade, Paul Lubetsky has a suite of offices overlooking the heart of New York’s Fifth Avenue with views any mogul would envy. With a surprising background, Lubetsky has managed to build a global business and succeed where others have failed. His acquisition of Marina B, the jewelry company founded by Bulgari heir Marina Bulgari that was a staple of the private jet lifestyles in the 80s and 90s will now put Lubetsky in the spotlight of elite travelers as he re-launches the brand. Recently Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan spoke to the serial entrepreneur as he readied for his next chapter.
ET: Tell us about your background.
Paul Lubetsky: The reality is for the past 30 years every thing we have done has been better than last. We have always positioned ourselves in new markets where we saw growth. When rubies and sapphires were hot we were there and did well. We did very well with colored diamonds and the same with estate jewelry. Last year was our best year ever. In any business you can’t get caught in a rut. You have to be flexible.
ET: And after that?
Paul Lubetsky: My next thing was buying branded jewelry from branded jewelry companies, and we were the leaders there. We bought the inventory from Fred Leighton and sold the merchandise. We bought the Henry Dunay inventory and sold most of it.
ET: But you are taking a different approach now?
Paul Lubetsky: Then the opportunity to buy actual brands came up, and we had the opportunity to buy Marina B and all of the inventory, plus her amazing archive of designs.
ET: What attracted you to Marina B?
Paul Lubetsky: Marina Bulgaria was one of the top jewelry designers of the 20th century so I literally jumped at the chance. With the Marina B acquisition I saw a brand that stood for something and really had potential others didn’t. It was a jewelry brand that was super chic, jet set, and trendy.
ET: Do you see a specific position for Marina B?
Paul Lubetsky: I was going through the department and jewelry stores and noticed a big gap in strong, precious jewelry. Because of the cost of gold, manufacturers for the last three years have been scaling back their use of gold. There has been a retreat from the bold, often intense jewelry that people love so it was the perfect time to fill the gap. The recession is upon us but there are still people with money. With Marina B we are trying to fill the gap in bold, outstanding designs.
ET: Tell us about the archive.
Paul Lubetsky: We inherited over 10,000 unique drawings. We have file after file cabinet. It is amazing. They have dates and even the location where Marina Bulgari was when she did the drawing. We have faxes from Marina to sheiks and sultans going back and forth on special requests, and her renderings for them.
ET: Are you going to use the drawings?
Paul Lubetsky: Of course for the designs, and customers will get a picture of the original drawing/design. We’re not deviating much; we’re using the original way the jewelry was manufactured as we want the highest quality and craftsmanship. She was brilliant. She had the background as an Everywoman. A lot of brands have financial people making decisions but we are paying total respect to the way she would have done it.
ET: There are a lot of brands out there and a lot of designer jewelry.
Paul Lubetsky: Marina Bulgari was so far ahead of her game. She understood what looks good on a woman. With her archive we are able to produce and design jewelry that is collectible. This is a sleeping giant.
ET: What has Marina Bulgari’s reaction been to your re-launch of Marina B?
Paul Lubetsky: She was very happy. Our ambition is to make it known worldwide. So far the response has been fantastic.
ET: What did you do before founding Windsor?
Paul Lubetsky: I was a teacher of transcendental meditation.
ET: Has that played a role in your business success?
Paul Lubetsky: I met some people who were very successful. We do transactions for the long term—long term relations. But flexibility has carried us through. We start experimenting. Our success is by having a big fishing net and we just see what works and what doesn’t. We eliminate many glitches.
ET: Do you still meditate?
Paul Lubetsky: Twenty minutes in the morning and evening allow me to be clear. With Buddhist meditation we like the philosophy, the concept that all your actions should be in accordance with the laws of nature.
ET: Do you travel much?
Paul Lubetsky: We travel extensively. I go around the world at least twice a year. I try to make all the trips an experience of cultures, be it in the Far East or West. I’ve been to Tibet, China, India. I haven’t been to Australia. My wife tries to find locations where I can’t do business.
ET: Is she successful?
Paul Lubetsky: We went to Kathmandu and I had old Nepalese royals showing us Boucheron and Cartier.