NEWPORT BEACH (AP) — Billionaire adventurer Richard Branson is hinting at underwater adventures with the unveiling of his latest business venture at a Southern California yacht club.

A news release about Tuesday’s announcement at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club on tony Balboa Peninsula says that there is only one frontier left for Branson’s Virgin brand, which has reached “the seven continents of the earth, up into the jet stream and soon, even into space.”

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Last year Branson unveiled a three-person submarine called the Necker Nymph, which is available for $2,500 a day for guests of his private resort in the Caribbean. The submarine, created by San Francisco-based Hawkes Ocean Technologies, is capable of going almost 100 feet deep. In a subsequent interview with Popular Mechanics, Hawkes officials said they were also working with Branson on submersibles capable of high speed deep sea travel.

Branson has also been working on a space tourism venture with the construction of a $209 million spaceport in New Mexico. The British businessman has said he expects to launch the first suborbital flights from Spaceport America between mid-summer 2011 and spring 2012.

While most of the country is still dealing with the daily realities of a struggling economy, University of California, Berkeley, professor Robert Reich said the super-rich are richer today than they have ever been.

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“It’s very hard to spend $20 million a year, even $10 million,” said Reich, former Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration. “The super-rich are always on the look-out for new thrills and new expensive thrills.”

High-end retailers such as Tiffany & Co. and Neiman Marcus continue to do well despite the economy, he said. And even as NASA experiences budget cuts, the extraordinary wealthy are willing to pay small fortunes to go into space or into the depths of the ocean, said the public policy professor.

“People who are selling to the super-rich basically can’t lose,” he said. “Richard Branson can dig a hole to the center of the earth and charge a million dollars a day to go through it and he’d find people to take him up on the offer.”

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