Nightlife brand Neverland to open new club in Johor Baru next year

Neverland's expansion plans will also include property development

Left: Neverland II at St James Power Station.
Neverland II at St James Power Station.PHOTOS: ST FILE, COURTESY OF EUGENE TIN
Mr Eugene Tin (left) and Mr Kwek Kon Chun (right) in a photo taken last year.
Mr Eugene Tin (left) and Mr Kwek Kon Chun (right) in a photo taken last year.

Home-grown nightlife brand Neverland Group is on an expansion spree - it will open a new club in Johor Baru next year and venture into property development for the first time.

The group is also on track to have its Malaysian business arm, Pixie Entertainment Group, listed on the Australian stock exchange.

Neverland's co-founder Eugene Tin, 37, revealed the plans to Life! in his first interview since the death of his business partner and good friend, Mr Kwek Kon Chun, last November.

Mr Kwek, 35, the son of Hong Realty managing director Kwek Leng Keow and nephew of billionaire Kwek Leng Beng, was killed after his Porsche 911 Turbo crashed on the KL-Seremban Expressway. He and his passenger, Neverland's regional marketing director Franco Toh, died on the spot.

The media-shy Mr Tin says it was a trying time for the company after Mr Kwek's death, but he was determined to continue the legacy that Mr Kwek had helped built and left behind.

"He was an irreplaceable loss. I tried my best to hold it together and, with help from my other partners and management, we braved through it," he says.

Neverland, which operates six entertainment outlets on both sides of the Causeway, is embarking on a new RM40-million (S$14.3-million) commercial development in JB with Malaysian property giant UMLand.

The partnership sees Neverland being an anchor tenant in a two-storey upscale 5,110 sq m shopping complex named Zenith in the Johor Baru City Centre development zone.

Neverland will operate Neverland JB, a 557 sq m club in the basement of the mall. The size of the club is slightly bigger than Club Kyo in Cecil Street. The project is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of next year. Mr Tin says Mr Kwek was the one who initiated talks for the Zenith project in mid-2013 and that he is merely "finishing up what KC started". Mr Kwek was known to his friends as KC.

About RM$3 million, Mr Tin reveals, will be invested in the "premium nightspot", which will adopt a similar concept to his other nightclubs, featuring Asian singers, dancers, live bands and DJs.

Mr Benjamin Lee, a manager with UMLand, says the aim is to "create a one-stop entertainment centre to complement the other retail malls in the area".

The property developer is also building a residential apartment block, Suasana Apartments, and a new Amari Hotel, next to the mall.

Mr Lee says UMLand, which is already looking for tenants for Zenith, partnered Neverland because it is a "well-known brand to Singaporeans and Johoreans working in Singapore".

Neverland's Malaysian business arm, Pixie Entertainment Group, is undergoing a listing exercise on the Australian stock exchange. The business is valued at A$40 million (S$41.5 million).

Mr Tin is Pixie's chief executive officer and his Malaysian business partner, Dato Victor Hoo, is the chairman. The pair will be working closely together to embark on new projects in Malaysia and Singapore.

Last week, they opened a 1,858 sq m club, Pixie@JB, in Jalan Dato Abdullah in JB. Mr Tin says about RM$2 million was invested in the club.

He adds that it was both his and Mr Kwek's "dream and vision" to build a prominent brand with the launch of an entertainment hub and to consolidate all their businesses under one company.

The duo had built a successful nightlife empire over the past six years, since launching their first nightspot, Club Neverland, in Orchard Plaza in 2009.

They are known for redefining the genre of live Asian music entertainment by bringing in singers and dancers from South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

Plans are in the works for Pixie to acquire Neverland's assets in Singapore, which include nightclub Sonar in Orchard Hotel. The original Club Neverland closed last September due to rental woes, but Mr Tin says he is looking for a new location in town to relaunch the club.

The eventual goal for Neverland is to branch out into the food and beverage and wellness industries - evolving from a nightlife operator to a lifestyle group.

Mr Tin says: "Everything on our plate right now is what KC envisioned for the company and I believe the company would have grown so much more if he was around."

"He accomplished a lot behind the scenes. The group misses him as a boss, a good brother and as a friend you could always rely on. Our success thus far is a tribute to him."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore nightlife brand to open club in JB'. Subscribe