By Mark Gray | May 4, 2015 | People
Las Vegas transplant Neil Moffitt is the force behind the massive Hakkasan empire—which just got a whole lot bigger.
Few people have done more to turn Las Vegas into the EDM capital of the world than this buttoned-up Brit, Hakkasan CEO Neil Moffitt.
Neil Moffitt vividly remembers his first trip to Las Vegas, when he stayed at Luxor just after it opened in 1993. But what really made that visit memorable was the “horrific” sunburn the British native received when he decided to stroll down the Strip. Twenty-two years later, Moffitt is helping to make memories—good ones this time—for the city’s party-loving visitors and locals as CEO of the nightlife giant Hakkasan Group, now even more gigantic with its recent $36 million acquisition of Light Group.
Hakkasan’s namesake nightclub regularly presents some of the biggest names in electronic dance music, including Calvin Harris, Tiësto, and Hardwell, and the company’s new club Omnia is doing the same. In fact, you could argue that the metamorphosis of Vegas into one of the world’s torchbearers for EDM is largely Moffitt’s doing. After managing a number of pubs in Britain, he began promoting festivals that attracted top DJ talent, and suddenly he found himself a big fish in the UK music world. That’s when this fish got an opportunity across the pond.
“Out of the blue, I was offered a chance to get involved with SpikeTV on this reality show about Ice,” he says, referring to the now-defunct Vegas nightclub. “They needed controversy.”
After importing Godskitchen—the hugely popular nightlife brand he had been working with in England—to Ice, Moffitt was asked to promote an evening at Tabu, before landing the management contract at the dayclub Wet Republic. From there his career soared right along with the fastexpanding club scene: He took over the gamechanging Pure Nightclub and its sister venues, and he and his Dubai-based partners opened clubs in London, China, India, Dubai, and elsewhere in the United States. Moffitt’s crown jewel, though, was the mammoth Hakkasan, which he opened in 2013 and which last year brought in more than $100 million.
Moffitt’s genius hasn’t gone unnoticed by his hotel partners. Scott Sibella, president and COO of MGM Grand, calls him a “straight shooter with a great business mind…. With Hakkasan, Neil Moffitt and his team transformed the Las Vegas nightlife scene and introduced an experience that had never before been seen. He leveraged a brand with international appeal and crafted a nightlife experience built around best-in-class DJs and entertainment.”
As impressive as Hakkasan Group’s success has been, Moffitt upped the ante with his purchase of Light Group late last year, and he hints that it won’t be his last acquisition. The company is slated to open an incredible 15 venues in 2015 alone. “Once we get through this year, we’ll be uniquely positioned to expand our portfolio,” he says. “I’m working with our partners to further develop concepts and ideas.”
Given his record of success, the eyes of the EDM world will be watching closely for whatever he has up his sleeve. But with increased scrutiny—last year Rolling Stone ranked Moffitt 17th on its list of “the most important people in EDM”—comes the inevitable downside: tabloid speculation about his finances and real estate purchases.
“I don’t like people writing about that stuff—it’s a bit of a cringer,” he says from his sprawling eighthf loor office overlooking the Strip. “On the other side of the coin, though, if they want to write about people in Vegas, that means that eyes are on us.”
photography by tom oldham