It’s a good time to be in the business of building five story-tall buddha statues, or making sparklers that you can stick in the tops of Champagne bottles. The company that owns Madison Square Garden, the Knicks, and Radio City Music Hall in NYC is joining forces with the operators of some of America’s most profitable nightclubs and clubstaurants.
James Dolan and his partners/family members in the Madison Square Garden Company just bought a 62.5 percent stake In Tao Group, which operates Tao, Marquee, and Lavo in NYC, as well as scads of other venues around the world. The Las Vegas and Downtown New York outposts of Tao were number one and number four, respectively, on last year’s list of the top-grossing independent restaurants in America, and both Lavo locations charted in the top 15. The group’s portfolio also includes perennially packed Manhattan venues Beauty & Essex, Vandal, and Avenue. There is simply no bigger company in the nightlife world right now than Tao.
The Dolans paid $181 million for their stake in Tao. The day-to-day operations of the nightlife/hospitality company will continue to be run by founders Rich Wolf, Noah Tepperberg, Mark Packer, and Jason Strauss. But Wolf tells Deadline that they plan to “build a global hospitality platform” together, and the companies say that this will involve “new and innovative premium hospitality experiences that can be integrated across MSG’s portfolio of live offerings.” So, presumably, you might see outposts of Tao and/or Lavo popping up at Madison Square Garden, as well as any future sporting or entertainment venues that the Dolan family plans to build or operate.
As part of the plan, the Tao founders have agreed to buy $1 million of “MSG inventory or services” and pay their new partners a $5 million management fee annually, Deadline reports. Tao has managed to retain a roster of palpably hot clubs and restaurants while expanding rapidly over the last few years — no small feat, especially in the high-stakes, mercurial world of nightlife — so it will be interesting to see how this new partnership integrates into the group’s world domination plan.