MORE DIAMONDS: De Beers LV, a joint venture between diamond cartel De Beers and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has signed a lease for its new retail concept at 703 Fifth Avenue near 55th Street. The diamond jewelry boutique will replace an existing Louis Vuitton shop, which is being relocated to the former Warner Bros. space on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. The De Beers LV store, with a 3,500-square-foot ground floor and slightly smaller mezzanine, is scheduled to open at the end of 2003. Rent is said to be about $800 a square foot. The first De Beers LV shop will open on Old Bond Street in London at the end of this year.

BENETTON BASE CAMP: Benetton’s biggest distributor, Iraklis Karabassis, president and owner of IK Enterprises Ltd., is growing the empire. "This year, my group is opening 20 new storesaround the country, and we have a plan to do another 20 in 2003, but it’s a little early to commit to a precise number. Eighty percent of that represents Benetton," with the rest being Sisley, Benetton’s sister division.

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