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October 1, 2014

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The heart of Hakkasan beats in Las Vegas

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Christopher DeVargas

Neil Moffitt, CEO of Angel Management Group, and Scott Sibella, president and COO of MGM Grand, celebrate the opening of Hakkasan Las Vegas with a ceremonial ribbon cutting Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Neil Moffitt needn’t worry about conflicting titles anymore.

“I was the CEO of Hakkasan Ltd. in London and the CEO of Angel Management Group,” Moffitt said. “It was only a natural progression that, at some point in time, there would be a coming-together of those companies so all of our interests are mutually aligned.”

Announced in February was the acquisition of Angel Management Group by Hakkasan. The two entities had been interlocked in an operations agreement, under which AMG managed Hakkasan at MGM Grand but also ran several competing entertainment venues.

Thus, the transaction is essentially a merger of the two well-known entertainment factions, with Hakkasan taking over as the owner of such famous Strip entertainment venues as Pure at Caesars Palace, Wet Republic at MGM Grand and Social House inside the Shops at Crystals.

Moffitt has hinted rather strongly that Pure is to undergo a major renovation under his company’s direction “at some point in the very near future.” Renovations at Wet Republic are being completed just in time for that club’s pool season.

Moffitt, a 10-year resident of Las Vegas, said the merger would position the city as the center of Hakkasan’s global universe.

“That’s something I’m very proud of,” said Moffitt, whose company runs clubs, hotels and restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Abu Dhabi, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Mumbai, Dubai and is opening a new restaurant this year in Shanghai. “If Las Vegas can be the headquarters of an international hospitality company, which will be offering daylife, nightlife, restaurants and hotels, that is a great thing for the city.”

I asked about nightlife, specifically, as Las Vegas — with a huge boost from such clubs as Hakkasan — has become the world’s leader in nightclubs. Given that seven of the 10 highest-grossing nightclubs in the country do business in Las Vegas (and Hakkasan will likely be in the top 10 at the end of 2014 after it has recorded a full year of operation), would he accept that the city is becoming the Nightlife Capital of the World, in place of the Entertainment Capital of the World?

“No,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve thought about it quite a lot, and if you look at Las Vegas as a blank canvas, right down to the MGM announcement of its new arena (at 20,000 seats behind Monte Carlo and New York-New York), we’ll have very few arenas to compete with that on a global basis. You already have MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay arenas, and there is not a city in the world that has three arenas like them in close proximity. Every major music act is coming through one of those arenas.”

The city’s reputation as a sports-event capital and a restaurant destination is also impenetrable, Moffitt said.

“Nobody comes near Las Vegas when it comes to boxing, and it’s the home of the UFC,” he says. “We have some of the best restaurants in the world in this market. We already have a great daylife product and a great nightlife product.”

Moffitt took a moment before owing to the obvious.

“That’s not even mentioning Guy (Laliberte) and Cirque,” he said. “If you were to do a firm head count of people who sit at a concert, or boxing event, or UFC event, or attend a Cirque show or eat in a restaurant daily, I think those five things would outweigh the attendees of a nightclub.”

Even one that covers 80,000 square feet, cost $100 million to build and runs up to 7,000 guests through the space on a busy weekend night/morning.

“We shouldn’t get lost in the fact that we are offering the best entertainment in the world today,” Moffitt said. “I’m still a big advocate of the fact that Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world.”

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