KEYNOTE INTERVIEW: Real Mallorca CEO Maheta Molango explains how the club transformed its fortunes
Transforming a running track into a premium hospitality space, installing a mature business enterprise, mirroring North America’s vision for entertainment, and, of course, winning games: The blueprint of Real Mallorca CEO and ALSD International Keynote, Maheta Molango, as interviewed by Katie McIntyre and reported on by Jared Frank, ALSD.
Standing over six feet tall, with an athletic presence, he certainly stands out in an ALSD International crowd. And that’s right where we found Real Club Deportivo Mallorca (RCD Mallorca/Real Mallorca) CEO Maheta Molango at ALSD International 2019 in Dublin – amongst the delegation of top-level hospitality salespeople, service providers, vendors, and suppliers from across the global sports and entertainment venue marketplace.
The former professional footballer, who played for multiple top-tier clubs including Atlético Madrid, Wacker Burghausen and Brighton & Hove Albion – who had a delegation at the event – where he once scored a goal in a record 12 seconds into a match, sat in the front row of each conference session, listening intently to each speaker, scribbling copious notes. He was there to learn, not be a celebrity or chief executive above the madding crowd.
Molango came to Real Mallorca from Baker & McKenzie in Madrid, where he practiced law, specialising in labour/employment law and sports law after retiring from the playing field. He was appointed CEO of Real Mallorca in January 2016 after the club was purchased by a U.S. investor group led by Robert Sarver and Andy Kohlberg, owners of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, and Steve Nash, two-time NBA MVP.
And that’s where we pick up the story from the ALSD International stage, where Molango helped open the show with a memorable keynote interview conducted by ALSD International Executive Director and Sports Venue Business CEO, Katie McIntyre.
The most obvious difference between sports leagues in Europe and North America is the reality of relegation for European clubs. In his short time in Mallorca, Maheta Molango has had to make investment decisions with the club relegated to competing in the third tier of Spanish football.
We joined the club, and the first thing we did was get relegated, which was a bit of a disaster. Mallorca was a club which played in LaLiga for 15 years, played in European Finals, and was a successful team. But it was good because we could change the club. We could change the culture.
After only two years and back-to-back promotions, Real Mallorca is back competing in LaLiga.
Leadership’s focus on changing culture applies beyond on-pitch victories, having also introduced many innovative refurbishments to its aging, municipality-owned stadium. Chief among them is the new VIP Corner at Son Moix Stadium, located pitch-side on the venue’s running track, turning a significant infrastructure disadvantage into prime real estate and a revenue-generating opportunity. Influenced by the club’s NBA owners, this premium hospitality area is akin to courtside seats in a basketball arena and provides a sightline and unmatched experience in LaLiga to watch the league’s best players like Messi and Luis Suárez.
What we’ve tried to do is obviously win games, because it’s all about winning games. But aside from that, what we’ve tried to do is give an experience to our fans. What we’ve tried to do is make sure it wasn’t just about football, or soccer, but also about having a real business enterprise and a proper stadium where we can hold events.
Given the globalisation of the sports venue marketplace, North American venues can learn a significant amount from their European counterparts, and vice versa, as best practices and new ideas cross oceans. But ultimately, any continental differences are amplified by the threat of relegation.
The Phoenix Suns can look five years ahead and know that even if they’re not good, LeBron James will still come [to their venue]. They can plan ahead. They can sell tickets ahead of time. They can have a proper business plan. In Europe, I don’t know if Messi will come again. This really affects the way you have to plan.
In the U.S., if you lose a game, it’s fine. It’s part of the entertainment. In Europe, if you lose a game, some people don’t talk to their wife for the entire week. So we want to copy their vision of entertainment, and they want to learn from our passion for the game.
Check out the video interview Sports Venue Business conducted with the enigmatic Maheta Molango earlier this year, filmed on location at Real Mallorca’s Son Moix stadium…
ALSD International is organised and delivered by Sports Venue Business – the industry leader for news, views & developments – in conjunction with the 30-year-old Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD). Check back soon for details on the 2020 edition…
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