NBR Rich Listers the Chow brothers push further into Auckland with Asia-Pacific's first Penthouse Club
New NBR Rich Listers John and Michael Chow are staking their claim in Auckland.
The duo – valued at $50 million on this year’s Rich List - has just opened a new club in Auckland, a licensee of the Penthouse Club.
It is the first Penthouse Club in the Asia-Pacific region and one of 14 worldwide. The duo hold all franchise rights for the Penthouse Club for Australasia.
The brothers invested $4 million into the club located in Auckland’s CBD in the Gore St building that used to house Mermaids.
With TVNZ and TV3 film crews in tow, co-owner John Chow said it is designed to bring the magazine to life and put excitement into Auckland’s nightlife.
“Everyone knows the Penthouse magazine has lots of great pictures, even if it is only bought for the articles.”
He says he wants to dispell the myth of adult entertainment being seedy.
Being non-seedy is relative. The Penthouse Club features strippers (also available for a $95 lapdance or a 60-minute, $500 "spa"), and sits in a narrow strip of downtown where gentrification has been patchy; neighbours include several massage parlours and backpackers' hostels. To the south is Shortland Street - home of the big law firms and stock brokers. To the north, the newly madeover Britomart. With the club's relatively high production value fitout, the brothers will be hoping it will attract customers from both sides.
While the Chow brother’s originally intended to put the club on the Victoria Street West site which was formerly the Palace Hotel (over the road from Sky City) that work has been held up because the old hotel building had to be demolished for the development.
The brothel barons were granted resource consent for a 15-storey tower on the site late last year. It will feature offices, bars and entertainment facilities, including a brothel and hotel (objections to the building have to be tempered by the reality the casio is currently surrounded by a detritus of pawn shops, $2 marts and scruffy massage parlours).
Guests at the club’s opening this week were treated to what NBR ONLINE's reporter says were "athletic" performances by four scantilly-clad international Penthouse Pets.
FriendFinder Networks (Penthouse Magazine) global club licencing director Jeff Stoller also travelled to Auckland for the opening.
The Chow Group claims to have a market value in excess of $200 million, owning about a dozen commercial buildings in Wellington’s CBD and a handful in Auckland.
They aim to have a billion dollar property portfolio by 2020.
John Chow told NBR the brothers controlled 70% of the strip club and brothel market in Wellington. They aim to achieve similar market share in Auckland.
Building on the so-called super brothel in Victoria Street West would begin some time next year, he said.
Mr Chow said he objected to the building's nickname. It would be a multi-purpose building that included, bars, restaurant, retail.
Like many businessmen, the Wellingtonian emphasises his company's efforts to diversifty its revenue base - although in the Chow Group's case it's finding the right mix of strip club, brothel, gym and retail.
The brothers bought the Palace Hotel that used to stand on the site for $3.3 million in 2008. It was demolished in 2011 following an Auckland Council investigation.
To oversee their expanding Auckland empire, they have bought a $6.65 million house in Fenton Circus, Orakei, that overlooks the harbour.