Robert Siegel is an expert in luxury. One of the most successful luxury real estate developers in the world (he both brokers and builds), he is a maestro of match making exactly the right flagship store location to precisely the right brand. His gift? Knowing what makes a luxury brand truly unique. His mission? Helping his clients achieve unprecedented sales returns. The idea of owning a luxury brand wasn’t something Siegel ever considered, until one day when the stars, or in his case the skis, aligned.
Robert Siegel and his partner bought Bomber Skies, a young company already known within the ski community for their ability to build lightening fast racing skies, in 2013. "Bomber skies are, quite simply, the highest-performing skies being made today,” Siegel maintains. “I always say to people that skiing is believing, and they think I’m kidding! But I’m telling you these skies are like no other. But I wanted them to be more than that, and I knew that with the right collaboration I could turn them into high art as well." And that collaboration was with Coca-Cola. But Siegel’s road to becoming a ski czar is an unusual one.
An Early Love for Skiing
Long before Robert Siegel was contemplating maximum foot traffic and the psychology of shopping for his clients, he was navigating slalom courses at the legendary Green Mountain Valley School in Waitsfield, Vermont. Yes, Siegel had high hopes of one day becoming a professional skier. GMVS has turned out more champions than any other institution on record, an incubator of world-class skiers that views barreling down a mountain face as just another day. Siegel loved it, but realized he’d never make it on a metal stand. “I had the passion for racing, but I knew I didn’t, ultimately, have the talent,” he says now. Instead, Siegel went on to collage and law school, but he knew real estate was, literally, in his blood: His mother was one of the first female luxury real estate brokers in the country, and after a brief stint working for Donald Trump Siegel took a desk alongside her. “She started a business out of our home in the early 1070’s, and in five years she was the exclusive commercial broker to Ferragamo and Burberry,” Siegel says. “I learned so much from my mother. She’s a dynamo—she’s bright, creative, passionate, and she’s still working!”
Turning a Passion into a New Direction in Business
Siegel continued to build the business and remained passionate and fulfilled. “Apart from ski racing, all I ever wanted to do was buy and build and develop real estate,” he says. Own a brand? “Never!” he says with a laugh. Enter Bomber skies, the New York-based newcomer that many in the ski industry say is the maker of some of the best and fastest racing skies on the circuit, looking to Siegel to invest in the three-year-old company. Siegel was intrigued, but dubious. “Ultimately I told them they were out of their mind,” he says. “The ski industry had become a mass marketer of equipment, with the emphasis not on luxury but on cost cutting. I just didn’t see how Bomber could be any different.” But something about the proposition stayed with Siegel, and he started doing some reconnaissance. “I’d look around and see skiers buy all the other luxury items that went with the sport—the clothes, the accessories, even the accommodations—but they were actually unwilling to spend on a ski. Personally I loved Bomber skies. I started skiing on them and completely understood what made them so special, but getting consumers to understand their value seemed impossible.”
And just like that, Siegel walked away from the Bomber bargaining table. “A while later I started reading the Steve Jobs book,” he says. “It’s about a man who took a utilitarian product, the computer, and made it beautiful, made it a luxury item. In an instant it clicked for me, and for all the reasons I didn’t want to invest in Bomber I now felt like I had something to add to the business. Sure, I knew it would be a challenge, but it also felt really exciting.”
The Olympics, The Skis and Vintage Coca-Cola Images
Siegel and his business partner bought Bomber in May 2013 and immediately set about repositioning the brand. First up, collaborating with iconic brands like Coca-Cola in order to introduce great design as part of the actual look of the ski. Siegel says Coca-Cola was on his wish list from the get go. “For starters, Coca-Cola is one of the longest running sponsors of the winter Olympics, and that alone is very important to the ski community. For another, the vintage Coke imagery is iconic and known the world over.”
Siegel’s team went into the Coca Cola archives and poured over thousands of images. In the end Bomber made several different versions of Coke skies, all emblazoned with bold and graphic red and white designs. “They’re very beautiful,” Siegel allows.
“When it comes to reaching people who can afford anything, you have to get them to fall in love,” he notes. “If you can do that, you will be successful.” Because he’s a skier himself—he gushes when he talks about teaching his own four kids to ski—he knows what it takes to connect with other skiers, especially those with an eye for design and luxury. “You have to constantly search for ways to ignite passion,” he allows. “One look at these skies and you get it.”