News & Analysis

Soho House flies in the face of adversity: Post IPO analysis

Andrew Saks, Friday, 16 July 2021

Some say that Soho House, and its parent company Membership Collective Group (MCG) is not much more than a pub chain that requires a membership fee, whilst others consider it a genuine private members club.

Whichever side of the polarizing perspective has been taken, MCG has managed to take itself onto the New York Stock Exchange and is now a publicly traded company.

Soho House, which is the brand used by MCG for its chain of private members clubs and restaurants, operates in Europe, Britain, and North America, and originally aimed its membership at people in the arts and media industry.

Founded in 1995 in Dean Street, in the middle of media society heartlands of Soho, London, it has taken 26 years of being a social life mainstay for many on both sides of the Atlantic for it to become a public company, but yesterday this became a reality.

MCG had originally set a price for its Initial Public Offering (IPO) at $14 a share, at the bottom of the $14 to $16 range pitched to investors, valuing it at $2.8billion which is quite an astonishing valuation for a members club which offers dining facilities only to those prepared to pay an annual fee on top of the bill, and for a business that is constantly in the line of government fire when it comes to fanatical lockdowns.

To be able to get this off the ground in such a political and economic climate is a remarkable achievement, however MCG shares began trading considerably down compared to the Pre-IPO original estimate, closing at £9.16 per share at the end of the first day of trading.

It has not been an easy road for MCG, which put its plans on hold for an IPO in 2018 as part of a plan to repay some of its debts and expand its operations to include more venues with a plan to add more than the current 30 club branches.

Although MCG's Soho House brand is most synonymous with the arts, media and creative set, perhaps one of MCG's most important venues is focused on an entirely different set, at the other end of London's elite, that being the Ned, in the Square Mile opposite Bank underground station, which is a well-known hangout for London's financial markets executives, and is used by international visitors to London when doing business with financial institutions.

Nowadays, every financial market professional globally knows the Ned, and Soho House founder and CEO Mr Jones has plans to open a Ned venue in New York, as well as further Soho House clubs in Paris, Rome, Tel Aviv and Brighton this year and is considering further venues in Manchester and Glasgow.

An interesting business model, and perhaps a high risk one, but Mr Jones and MCG have to be commended for their interest in expansion and taking the company public during a period of struggle for the hospitality industry, and at a time when the government could close it down at the flick of a switch when standing at the propaganda slogan-clad yellow boxes on one of their monotonous press conferences.

Let's hope the company flies in the face of adversity and does well.

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