Economy

Wealthy start spending at Fort Lauderdale boat show

For a certain segment of luxury yacht broker Kevin Callahan's customers, money wasn't really the problem during the financial crisis. They could afford to spend $130 million on a boat. But what would people say?

``Everyone was looking down on people spending money,'' said Callahan, a top executive at Fort Lauderdale's Moran Yacht & Ship, which oversees construction of custom mega-yachts for the elite. ``They had money, and they were laying low.''

Callahan predicts chatter won't be as big of a hang-up during this year's 51st Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, an annual expo known for nautical lavishness that opens Thursday. Callahan and others said they're hearing less concern from buyers that a big yacht purchase sends the wrong signal in a down economy.

``People have started to hire, businesses are doing better. They're feeling more comfortable,'' said Andrew Doole, chief operating officer of Show Management, which produces the Lauderdale show. ``This time last year, a lot of companies were letting a lot of people go. They couldn't be seen buying a boat when they were firing lots of staff.''

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