Club M1NT invites Hong Kong's hippest to invest

M1NT Hong Kong promises to be an exclusive club owned by the super wealthy. Are you rich and hot enough to be allowed to invest?
Hong Kong's newest private club, M1NT could end up being the hangout of choice for the super-trendy. And you could (if selected) own a piece of it. The club is currently seeking 250 members who will invest in the venture. It certainly has all the ingredients for success in Hong Kong: it's exclusive, expensive and you just might make a mint if you invest in M1NT Hong Kong.

Consider the original M1NT London. Opened 18 months ago, it is billed as "the hottest and most successful private members club in London, which counts celebrities, billionaires and royalty among its members". Do a Google Search and you'll find pictures featured in OK! magazine of beautiful people. The Financial Times more sedately described it as ôAn indulgence that will make you money".

The Hong Kong version is opening in September in a 4,500 square-foot venue on Hollywood Road. M1NT Hong Kong has secured a ten-year-lease on the property from Henderson Land Development who will announce the actual location in about one month. But expect 14-metre ceilings, a mezzanine and water-motifs that will feature oh-so-appropriately for Hong Kong, a shark tank. There's already a 1,200-person-long list of applicants. Most will be turned away.

That is because M1NT Hong Kong is looking for just 250 members who will collectively own the company that owns the club. These shareholders get lifetime membership with no annual fees. They share the profits of the business, can sell their shares and have reciprocal rights to M1NT London and all future venues worldwide. A second tier of at least 1,000 traditional members paying annual fees will have access to the club and form the waiting list for shares. This is where the bidding war begins. In London, those second-tier shares were worth ú1.60 when the club opened over a year ago û they are now trading at over ú4.

According to its founder, 27-year-old Alistair Paton, M1NT Hong Kong will be as exclusive as its London counterpart and will offer a level of luxury, service and premium lifestyle "not yet seen in Hong Kong".

"I think in terms of financial performance it'll do better than London. In terms of celebrities, well, I donÆt think it will rival London. In terms of design, I think it will improve on London," says Paton who refreshingly doesn't dodge questions. He says the group is spending HK$25 million to design a "product that will blow Hong Kong away".

"There's such a high concentration of super-high net-worth people and no real high-end product," says Paton. "I reckon people in Hong Kong know what a bad cocktail tastes like." But he goes on to say that the success in London has been the mix of people. "If the people arenÆt interesting, it doesnÆt work."

How interesting is the clientele at the Knightsbridge venue? Founding shareholders in M1NT London include nine billionaires, five lords, three baronesses - and let's not forget that Val Kilmer and rock star Lenny Kravitz are members.

Here's the Hong Kong deal: shareholders are being offered 20,800,000 Class A full-voting shares representing 52% of the total equity. M1NT's London-based shareholders have already subscribed for and paid for their maximum allocation of 8% of the equity in M1NT Hong Kong priced at HK$1 per share. Plus, the maximum 1,800,000 shares priced at HK$1 personally available to M1NT Hong Kong directors have already been secured and paid up.

That means that 15,800,000 shares remain, priced at HK$1.20 and are available to Hong Kong-based investors only. Share packages range from a minimum of HK$50,000 to a maximum investment of HK$500,000. The price will rise to HK$1.40 on May 16 and thereafter the value of the shares is expected to exceed HK$2.00 by the end of June. The offer closes July 31.

But not just anyone can apply û or have hopes to get in. Members will be selected from the following 10 categories û media, banking, fashion, music, law, sport, medicine, property, art and manufacturing. There will be a shareholder representative of each sector who in the coming weeks will sit around a boardroom table in the Entertainment Building in Central, and select five candidates from each category to comprise the first group of potential candidates who can buy in at HK$1.20 a share. The shareholder's committee needs to unanimously vote in favour of the person, then the candidateÆs name will be put forward to the board of directors.

The directors must also unanimously agree. They include Australian Paton, who worked as a foreign exchange and vanilla swaps trader in Sydney, before raising A$2.5 million to found a carbon credit and emission derivative trading business in 1999 (which he sold for $10 million four years later). Two founding shareholders of the London venture are also directors in Hong Kong: Jeremy Stone, who reportedly has served as an advisor to Richard Branson and Lawrence Chu, who formerly worked for EMI Music in London. Andrew Lewis, who was employed by Jones Lang LaSalle in Australia and Hong Kong; Matt Holland who is an executive director at Morgan Stanley and ex-broker Ben Horner are full-time directors as well. Paolo Pong, who is the founder of Altaya Wines, a distributor of vintage cigars in Hong Kong, will share a directorship role with his partners Alan Lo and Arnold Wong.

Paton insists that he can't personally sway the board if others don't agree. And the potential candidates must actually be working. The target market is aged between 26-48, 55% male and 45% female and who regularly mingle in Central, Wanchai and Happy Valley.

"The tussle amongst Hong Kong's elite to secure their own place in the share registry is certainly already in full swing," says Paton.

What will the club offer? The promoters promise it will be "the hottest night spot in town". Plus there will be all-day business facilities (just in case you donÆt own a Blackberry), use of a fleet of Black M1NT Range Rover's (because you might have left your Rolls at home) and access to exclusive global travel and entertainment discounts.

Check this out for a sales pitch. Paton says: "What could be better than partying in your own club on your company's expense account with top business minds, movers and shakers and international identities all the while watching the share price increase by over 150% in a year. Well that's what has happened in London and is now coming to Hong Kong."

He has certainly built a name for himself in the UK. The 27-year-old Australian-born entrepreneur reportedly has ú8 million in the bank and the Evening Standard calls him "LondonÆs most eligible bachelor."

Giving hope to all bankers that there's life after the money trail, he says that this job isn't as profitable as banking, but a lot of fun. He laughs: "ItÆs a brilliant business idea, isnÆt it?" For more information, email [email protected] or call M1NT's Hong Kong office on 21680604.

As for future venturesùbe on the look out for an exclusive club in ChelseaÆs football stadium û and in Moscow, the city he calls a "sleeping giant".
¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.