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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sailing to Success as Fixer for the Super-Rich

For MTAs a lifestyle manager, Prospato's job is to grant the wealthy's every wish.
When Marcello Prospato worked as a personal assistant aboard the private yacht of Rafik Hariri, the late billionaire and prime minister of Lebanon, he and his colleagues had to deal with the most extravagant of requests.

"Madam Hariri's hairdresser lived in Paris, and once at 3 a.m. she said, 'Tomorrow, I would like my hairdresser,'" Prospato said in a musical Italian accent, recalling his time cruising the Italian coast with the Hariris in 2003.

"But he traveled during the summer, and was in New York. We worked until morning to find a ticket in order to have him in Portocello by the evening. And, of course, it worked out."

Prospato has brought his expertise in tending to the needs and whims of wealthy clients, honed by more than 20 years working in the hospitality and private service industries, to Moscow. Here he is with Red Spot, a company that is promoting a new concept in Russia: lifestyle management.

It is an idea that potential clients don't always fully understand, Prospato said.

He and the other well-connected lifestyle managers at Red Spot, he said, including corporate travel agent Andrei Voronin, actress Anna Mikhalkova and luxury brands promoter Bella Yablonskaya, use their personal and business contacts to secure for clients the best tables, tickets and rooms in town. They act, in effect, as personal concierges. They are on call to arrange anything an affluent client might need, from private jets and Sardinian villas to yachts in Marbella.

"Recently, somebody wanted to rent a chalet, but they didn't know where," Prospato said.

"It was very short notice, as most are already rented out for the winter season. But through our contacts, we could offer one in Courchevel, St. Moritz or Gstaad."

Prospato himself acts as a dedicated assistant to the highest-paying members of Red Spot, and escorts them around town.

It is a role, he said, that he has spent his working life perfecting.

Prospato was born in San Remo, in northern Italy, in 1963. It was there that he first worked in the service industry, as a teenage caddie on the local golf course. It wasn't long, however, before he found himself drawn to a prestigious hotel in the town, the Cala di Volpe.

"My mother was working there, so I started going to see her. And then I looked around the kitchens, the restaurant," Prospato said.

He became a waiter at the hotel, entering a profession that he said wasn't exactly his first choice. But he developed a liking for the job, and became ambitious. At 21, he decided to spend a season at the Gloucester Hotel in London to gain experience and improve his English, taking on exhausting 16- and 18-hour shifts.

Upon his return to the continent, Prospato aimed for the top. For the next five years, at the end of the 1980s, he worked as a waiter, maitre d' and then restaurant manager at some of Europe's most prestigious hotels, including the Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, the Duron in Geneva and the Palace in Gstaad.

Prospato said he was not satisfied with simply working hard, and always felt driven to work on his professional skills and relationships with clients. Sometimes, this meant having to do homework.

"I had a logbook with all the clients in the hotels in it," he said.

"I learned exactly which kind of salads they liked, which kind of wine. I carried this book with me always."

But Prospato also noted that the relationship with clients was not necessarily one of complete subservience. He discovered that, with a little charm on his part, the rules could be manipulated.

"There is a sort of secret. It is that you can do anything you want," he said with a flourish.

"Personally, I think it depends on the way you do it."

Prospato left the hotel industry in 1999, and became a personal assistant for the Latsis family aboard their private yacht in the Mediterranean. Guests of the wealthy Swiss clan included Prince Charles and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.

It was with the Latsises, and later the Hariris, that Prospato had his first taste of "lifestyle management." Prospato and his colleagues selected destinations, chose restaurants and even drew up jogging routes for their employers.

In 2003, Prospato met a wealthy Russian businessman in Italy, and for the next 18 months worked in Moscow as his personal assistant. Prospato said he followed his curiosity to Russia, and could not resist the temptation of new experiences.

It was in Moscow that he became acquainted with the travel agent Voronin, and together they created Red Spot, which officially opened for business in October.

"We don't have a lot of clients yet," Prospato said. "But the ones we have are very demanding."

Prospato said that Moscow was sometimes a challenging place to work. He suggested that Russia's new rich wanted too many luxuries too quickly and could be excessively demanding.

However, Prospato said he believed there was a future for him here.

"Once I was talking with friend of mine, and he asked, 'What is there in Moscow that you like?' And I said, 'I don't know.'

"It's a sort of spell," Prospato reflected. "But there is something, for sure."