Zouk sale gets industry thumbs-up

Many feel new owner GHK has the capability to expand the S'pore brand internationally

The crowd outside popular nightspot Zouk in Jiak Kim Street. PHOTO: ST FILE

The sale of Zouk nightclub came as no surprise to industry players.

Many would have heard on the grapevine that it was on the cards when Zouk announced its move to Clarke Quay in June.

Reactions to the acquisition by Genting Hong Kong (GHK) have been mostly positive.

Many observers felt that GHK - affiliated with the Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group - has the capability to expand the Singapore brand internationally.

"It's good for Singapore's nightlife. Now there is a platform to bring a home-grown brand to an international level and expand it overseas where GHK has operating units. That will bring more awareness to our clubbing scene," said Mr Gordon Foo, managing director of Mando-pop club Shanghai Dolly at Clarke Quay.

Zouk's former marketing manager, Mr Andrew Ing, said: "If he just sells to another Singaporean company, would they be able to do what Genting can do?

"As long as the people who are taking over still believe in the philosophy and know how to retain a certain amount of credibility and still make enough money to keep the shareholders happy," said Mr Ing, who believes the sale could help the brand go international.

GHK, which owns popular Star Cruises, is headquartered and listed in Hong Kong with a secondary listing in Singapore.

GHK has offices and representation in various nations including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Britain and the United States.

Limited Edition Concepts (LEC) director Godwin Pereira, 41, said that the sale will make Zouk become more commercial, which will "add to the flavour" of the Singapore clubbing scene.

Associate Professor of Marketing at the NUS Business School, Dr Ang Swee Hoon, said while Zouk founder Lincoln Cheng was an able owner, he was "too close to the product", explaining his decision to sell.

"Sometimes when you're too close to it, you can't see how else to grow it," she said. "You need someone independent on the outside to be able to see opportunities to take it to another level.

"It's another made-in-Singapore product that's now grown international. It's an opportunity for Singapore to make a mark."

The timing of the sale could not have been better, with Zouk moving to a new location after the club faced difficulties over renewing its lease at its Jiak Kim Street premises. It opened there in 1991.

Mr Ing, now chief operating officer of The Lo & Behold Group, said: "I think Lincoln had a good run. To set up a new club in another location is a big commitment. I think it's great that he can spend more time with his daughter and his family. I couldn't see him putting blood and sweat to set up the new club in Clarke Quay."

Mr Cheng had told The Straits Times that he wanted to spend more time with his 11-year-old daughter.

However, some such as Ms Tracy Phillips, 37, felt the sale of Zouk marks "the end of an era".

Ms Phillips, a creative consultant, worked at the club for 11 years. She said part of Zouk's charm was having the same management for many years.

She felt that the sale is "at odds with what Zouk is about", adding that she has doubts about whether the club will maintain its edge.

Mr Ing said: "We were always calling him (Mr Cheng) the pilot. Without him, I don't know what it's going to be like. It's like when Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United Football Club."

Mr Erik Hon, 36, who has been going to Zouk for 16 years, said "it's a sad day for the dance music scene".

The executive director of a financial firm, who frequented the club two or three times a week when he was younger, fears that after the sale, "the music policy will probably change, and the place will become even more commercialised".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2015, with the headline Zouk sale gets industry thumbs-up. Subscribe