3/4/2013. Update on the end of The Big Mango Bar. A BBK reader sent me an email noting an announcement by the owners of The Big Mango Bar.
The owners of the The Big Mango announced on their blog the closing of The Big Mango Bar.
The bar has been sold to Thai investors, the name will be changed, and the upper floors will be converted into serviced apartments catering to the businesses flourishing on Sukhumvit Soi 4.
The closing of the Big Mango follows the closing last year, of The Duke of Wellington, a British pub on Silom that was also owned my Michael Francis Smith, Graham Jones, and Nicholas Dattoma. The Duke of Wellington was reopened with a new owner and is now called The Pintsman.
No announcement has been made about whether the bar has been sold or whether Michael Francis Smith, Graham Jones, and Nicholas Dattoma will retain an ownership interest in the new venue.
Good luck to the new owners in starting a successful business at the location of The Big Mango Bar. I sincerly hope they have more succcess than the current owners.
The following account of the end of The Big Mango Bar was posted anonymously in the comments by a reader who uses the alias Mangostorian.
I will tell what I know about the “Mango Investors.”
When the Mango got kicked out of Nana Plaza, Michael Smith, Nicholas Dattoma, and whoever else had an ownership interest (I will only deal with known facts here), didn’t have the capital to rebuild or reopen the bar in another location. Nana Plaza was obviously out (they had just gotten kicked out) and there were no suitable locations either on Soi 4, Patpong, or Cowboy.
Desperate to stay in business, they approached selected customers and expats for financing to build a new bar. A hotel conference room was rented, people were invited, free food was provided, and Nick and Michael pitched a new bar to potential investors. Points in the bar were offered for $25,000 dollars each. In exchange, point owners would get a proportionate share of the net profits each month.
The presentation was slick. The bar was pitched as a “new concept” that would draw customers from a young tech savvy demographic that would find the bar through the blog and a companion sites they were starting called DurianSeed.com and WickedTraveller.com. Nick and Michael pitched themselves as “celebrity endorsers” for the bar who would interface with the new breed of customers and serve as “ambassadors” who would show newbies around the Bangkok sex scene. They saw the bar and its companion sites as part of an “empire” that would dominate the Bangkok sex market. Yelp.com was used an example of what they were creating.
For those not tech savvy, Yelp.com is a review site for local businesses. Patrons of the businesses write reviews and post them. The reviewers are normal Joe’s who don’t get paid for their reviews. Over time, the reviews pile up and create a massive database with reviews on almost every business in town. The beauty of the Yelp.com model is that the owners don’t write or do anything. As long as they can get customers to write free reviews of local businesses, the site slowly builds up a database of valuable reviews, the valuable reviews draw in more traffic, the traffic generates more reviews, and the site snowballs.
I declined to invest but others did. They raised over $100,000 dollars which paid for the current location. In case you forget, the current location started out as a shell and was completely gutted and built from scratch. This was expensive and consumed most of the investor’s money.
There was a 6 month period when the old bar had closed and the new bar hadn’t opened yet. Rather than keep their service girls (sex workers) on payroll to tide them over, Nick and Michael made the cold hearted decision to just cut them loose without notice or severance pay. Many of the girls were forced onto the streets. If you walked down Soi 4, you could see ex-Mango girls standing in Nana Parking lot searching for customers to pay rent and feed themselves. Others could be seen standing half naked on the sidewalk in front of small Soi 4 bars where they got paid to entice pedestrians into the bars ala Pattaya Soi 6. A couple of the better looking ones got jobs as GoGo dancers in Cowboy and Nana and some just disappeared, never to be heard from again.
When the new bar opened, Nick and Michael tried populating it with new girls. They tried to get freelancers to hang out in the bar by giving out discount “membership” cards but failed to attract any. Because there were not many customers, many of the girls employed at their old location refused to work for the new bar. The ones who did return couldn’t find enough customers to make their monthly drink and sex quota and claim their full salaries. Eventually most of the girls left after Nick and Michael refused to lower quotas or increase salaries.
The out of the way location and lack of girls doomed the new bar. The world financial meltdown and the various bombings, riots, and political turmoil in Thailand killed the tourist industry and the bar started losing money. Over time, the customer base shrank, the bar declined to its current state, and Graham has announced its closing.
At one point, there was a meeting called where Nick and Michael laid out the state of the business and made it clear the investors had lost their money. There were a lot of angry words exchanged at that meeting. Threats were made. One of the investors blamed Nick for running afoul of Kenny and blamed the Kenny/Mango feud and all the bad press for driving new customers away from the Mango “brand”. That particular investor argued for issuing a public apology to Kenny but I don’t know what happened to that plan. The meeting broke up with no resolution but several of the investors to this day think they were sold a bill of goods and still want their money returned.
The end game was never for Michael and Nicholas to grow old running a bar in the Bangkok nightlife district. Veterans of the dot.com bust, they had watched numerous people start up and sell internet businesses and get rich. In those years, traffic was king and sites with a large numbers of “clicks” were selling for millions. The end game was to start a site like Yelp.com that reviews local bars, hotels, and businesses, build up traffic, sell adds ala Facebook, and eventually sell it for millions to Yahoo or some other large internet site looking for a foothold in Thailand.
This is the same business model Spuul.com (Michael’s current employer) is following today. Clone the U.S. streaming video sites like NetFlix but for Indian movies and then when a company like NetFlix decides to enter the Indian market sell, Spuul.com to Netlflix for millions.
That was why the crew of “Mangotards” was cultivated. Michael and Nicholas needed people to write reviews for Durian Seed so that others would have a reason to click there. The reason The Big Mango became the preferred hangout for the gang of misfits and losers was they needed the “Mangotards” to fill their site up with content. People were needed to actually write entertaining and informative reviews of bars and restaurants to seed the site. Otherwise, the site would just be a URL no one visited.
Once a big enough library of reviews was written, the site would start generating traffic, and the traffic itself would provide a continuous supply of new reviews. Crucial was getting the “Mangotards” to write the intial slug of reviews. Durian Seed was chosen as the name of the site because the “Mangotards” were meant to provide the “seed” from which a big juicy fruit would grow.
Pants Elk, Bangkok Bad Boy, The Pattaya Ghost, Werewolf, Young Penfold, Daffy Duck and others were “friended” and given insider status so they would continue to grind out articles and reviews for Durian Seed and its companion site. Bangkok Bad Boy was convinced to close his popular blog and give his valuable content to Nick and Michael. Pattaya Ghost was allowed to advertise his diving business on the bar blog. Werewolf was extended credit so he could drink when he was broke. Young Penfold was allowed to deal drugs on the “down low” to people whom he met through the blog. Etc. The comment section of the Blog was filled with Michael and Nicholas stroking the egos of their “pets” to keep them typing away generating free content.
Anyone who knows these people knows they are the sorriest crowd of social misfits (think of the bar scene from Star Wars) and anyone who thought twice must have wondered why Michael and Nick, the self-professed “cool cats” would surround themselves with such people but those in the know knew and now you know too.
Michael and Nick were scamming everyone. They had gotten the investors to fund the new bar but hadn’t given them any ownership rights in the new websites. In the end, they planned to sell the websites and their traffic to a big site looking for a foothold in the Thailand market and people who put up the money for their venture would be left with points in the bar but no ownership of the websites and their valuable traffic. Nick and Michael would own the website with all the hits and would cash the big check. The plan was always to leave the investors out in the cold. The ultimate Fuck You.
I suppose it was a good plan but it got torpedoed by the tanking of the Thailand tourist market. When the bar started losing money it became unsustainable. There were too many mouths to feed and insufficient income. Nicholas and Michael were drawing living expenses from the bar receipts, the full time manager had to be paid, and the investors wanted to get paid too. After financially struggling for months, Nicholas and Michael were forced to seek outside employment or end up homeless. And that is what they did. They did a runner and left Thailand.
Today, Michael and Nicholas tell everyone they no longer officially have an “interest” in The Big Mango and Graham owns the bar. Many of the investors believe this is a smoke screen to prevent them from trying to recover their money from Michael and Nicholas. If the bar was really “sold” to Graham they should be entitled to a share of the money but no money has been forthcoming and the terms of the “sale” to Graham have been kept under wraps.
The Big Mango and the lease on its location is actually owned by an Amity Corporation that lists Michael and Nick as the primary shareholders and managing directors. Ownership is a matter of public record and anyone can go down to the appropriate government office and see the paperwork. Rumor has it that this was done recently and no ownership change has been registered with the Thai government. Again the terms of the sale, if there actually is one, of the Mango to Thai owners is being kept under wraps. Graham is bragging about buying a new Mercedes and moving to a condo with an indoor pool and the investors still haven’t seen any returns or refund.
So that is where things stand today. The bar is closing, the investors’ money is gone, and there is a lot of hate toward Nicholas, Michael, and Graham.
I know the “official line” is that all the negative comments are from Kenny and his sockpuppets but, honestly, it more likely comes from the investors who got financially screwed by the Mango owners.
This is the original post from 2011.
The confirmed rumor on the street is that The Big Mango Bar has been listed for sale.
With the previous closing of the Duke of Wellington, the alleged attempted disposal of The Big Mango Bar officially ends Tricycle and Pmmp’s dream of establishing a Bangkok nightlife entertainment empire.
Rising rents in Nana Entertainment Plaza closed the first iteration of The Big Mango and the collapse of the Thai tourist industry due to the worldwide recession and internal political upheaval combined with an out of the way location doomed the current iteration.
The listing claims an annual net profit of 3,500,000 THB or $9722 USD per month.
If true, that would be a truly outstanding performance given the current state of the Thai nightlife industry and the widespread bankruptcies and closings that have rocked the bars and clubs of The Reservation.
If true, Tricycle and Pmmp deserve accolades for an exemplary effort marketing and running the bar.
If the advertised financials are accurate, the asking price of 6,000,000 THB or $200,000 is a truly stunning opportunity —– allowing a potential buyer to earn a 50% return on investment and recoup his money in only 2 years.
At this price, its amazing that bar hasn’t already been snapped up by a savvy investor.
The listing from Sunbelt Asia is given below.
Bangkok Sports Bar
(UPDATE! The asking price has been reduced from 7,500,000 baht to 6,000,000 baht.)
Well established after nine years of profitable trade, this Bangkok Sports Bar sits in a well patronised soi in the lower Sukhumvit region of the city. Live television coverage of all major sporting events has made the establishment popular with the expatriate community, and tourists are also known to visit when in town. A website keeps sports fans aware of all upcoming events and local sports clubs have built up an affiliation.
Housed within a four storey property, the bar enjoys annual net profits of approximately 3,500,000 baht after all overheads have been deducted from annual receipts that total roughly 8,500,000 baht. The main expenses are monthly rent, set at 65,000 baht, and monthly salaries that total 150,000 baht for 20 full time employees (there are also five part time staff used when necessary). Although the lease expires in early 2010 there is a provision to extend it for a further six years.
The bar utilises the first two floors, with the upper floors used for an office, a kitchen, a spare room, maid’s quarters and living accommodation for up to four people. Assets valued at 1,000,000 baht will be passed on, and these include seven televisions and a pool table. The owner has a regular day job and has grown tired of running the bar in his evenings; he will therefore countenance a sale to provide himself with more spare time. Although the sale is not urgent, an attractive asking price that equates to roughly two times earnings has been set.
New asking price: 6,000,000 baht.