Sometimes the biggest power players are the ones who stay behind the scenes.
Architect Brad Friemutter may not be a household name, but together with the firm he founded in 1992, the Friedmutter Group, he has provided the design muscle behind some of the most expensive integrated resorts and casinos in the world: the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Harrah’s in Atlantic City, and the recently opened Studio City in Macau, just to name a few.
His projects are often worth billions — Studio City, for example, publishes at $3.2 billion — and the resort owners he works with are usually billionaires.
“They know all of the nicest things in the world. They have been to the nicest hotels, and restaurants, and places in the world,” Friedmutter told Business Insider. “We as designers have to have seen those places as well, so that we understand.”
We recently caught up with Friedmutter and his wife Kimberly to hear a bit more about their jet-setting lifestyle.
Friedmutter is originally from Queens, in New York City, but eventually made his way out to the West Coast after landing a job with Bank of America in San Francisco. After starting work with a designer who focused on casinos, he became acquainted with Steve Wynn, who took a liking to Friedmutter's work and eventually promoted him to VP of design and construction on the Golden Nugget. In 1992, Friedmutter started his own firm, which has worked on a number of projects in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Hong Kong. The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas is one of their biggest and most expensive projects to date.
The way to survive in such a competitive and loud environment, Friedmutter says, is to know your customer. 'What the business traveller is looking for, what the gaming traveller is looking for -- it's all different,' he said. 'It's a very interesting business because they're open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And they have to figure out how to fill those rooms and get people to come there in different seasons. It even varies during the day.'
The Friedmutter Group most recently finished work on Studio City Macau, an integrated resort that, at $3.2 billion, is reported by some to be the second-most expensive building in the world. The casino reportedly paid some $70 million for a 15-minute promotional video directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, and Leonardo DiCaprio. The film premiered to a 5,000-seat theatre at the resort in October.
When we met up with Friedmutter and his wife, Kimberly, a British TV crew was just finishing up filming them for the day. Kimberly is a celebrity hypnotist and has appeared on a number of reality TV shows, including TLC's 'Sin City Rules' and a program about successful American women that aired in the UK. When we walked in, this particular crew was filming the moment Brad gave Kimberly a beautiful necklace he had custom-made for their anniversary.
Adopting the lifestyle of a billionaire often means lots and lots of travel. Friedmutter bought a Falcon 50 triple-engine jet to make that part a bit easier. 'It's the closest thing to 'Beam me up, Scotty!' there is,' he said.
In the last month alone, the couple has travelled to Los Angeles, Macau, Miami, Massachusetts, and Cabo San Lucas.
'The flexibility of the life we've chosen is what really makes it possible,' Kimberly said. 'It's of course very exciting.'
'A lot of times, with the nature of our work -- both what Kimberly's doing and what I'm doing -- we might say to you that we're going to be in Las Vegas for two weeks, but by the end of the afternoon, I'll get a phone call, or she'll get a phone call, and we'll be in another place next week or tomorrow,' Friedmutter said. 'Things happen really quickly.'
Still, they do get some downtime. They spent the Thanksgiving holiday relaxing on their yacht, 'The Kimberly,' in Mexico.
The Friedmutters' primary home is called 'Shangri-Las Vegas,' a 15,000-square-foot Zen mansion about 20 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip. The couple was married here in a ceremony officiated by the mayor of Las Vegas and Michael Beckwith, the philosopher behind 'The Secret.' 'But, as Las Vegas would have it, neither one was licensed to marry us, so we got a pastor dressed as Elvis,' Brad said with a laugh.
The house has a very calm feel, with lots of dark wood, stones, and even carved doors that were imported from TIbet. 'With all of the beautiful places we travel, working on these exciting projects, it's always nice to come home and feel that lifestyle doesn't change,' Friedmutter said. 'That stability is how you deal with all of the travelling. It's something to look forward to.'
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