Who Owns Space Ibiza.

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Written by Dan Kirwan

It’s one of the most talked about topics of conversation on the island of Ibiza. From both local and tourist perspectives, the ownership of the famous Space Brand intrigues many different tribes and nationalities. Mainly because the iconic and much-loved brand had not been seen on the island since it was decommissioned in 2016 until it suddenly appeared on a giant TV screen attached to the wall of the Matutes family-owned Hard Rock Hotel in 2021 with the message “Coming soon.”

That move put the cat amongst the pigeons, as up until that fateful night, it was believed that Pepe Rosello retained ownership of the brand. He had just made a press statement announcing the launch of a new Space Eat and Dance concept on the sunset strip in San Antonio alongside a Sundays At Space party at Es Paradis. It was more than a coincidence that soon after, a glowing image of the award-winning brand he created in 1989 appeared on the premises of his arch-nemesis. In Space, nobody can hear you scream, and that silent image was deafening in its meaning. “It’s mine, my own, my precious.”

After five years of stillness, the Matutes monolith had spoken. The signal had begun, and with it, a fresh wave of speculation surrounded Ibiza’s golden triangle of Hi, Ushuaia and Hard Rock Hotel. There was no reply, only radio silence from the once-vocal Pepe Rosello. In business terms, no response is considered an answer. So how could Pepe Rosello not own the Space Branding, people asked? To answer that question, we will have to tell you a little story that began in 2009. Now I am not saying this story is true; it’s just a story told to me in 2010 from a reliable source. However, this narrative fits the drama played out over the last few years between Pepe and his ex-landlord and offers one explanation of how Matutes ended up owning the Space branding.

To begin, we will start with some factual information. In Ibiza, the typical lease term on a business property is 20 years. So when Pepe signed the lease on the Space conference centre and waterpark that would become Club Space, it was the year 1989, two years after the Matutes Group opened the Space Centre. PDB was a family-friendly resort with many rooms lying empty. Matutes needed to fill them, and Pepe offered him an opportunity to attract new clients to the resort by developing its first club. Pepe had earned a reputation in San Antonio as a forward-thinking businessman with a golden touch, and the partnership looked advantageous for both parties. And so it was. Space became a cultural icon, and the Hotels and businesses around it profited. Before long, the 20-year lease was nearing its end in 2009.

The property had increased in value due to its tenant’s hard work and skill, who had nurtured his baby into a musical prodigy. So the landlord was holding all the cards and the keys to his tenant’s home when they sat down to negotiate a possible lease extension. The landlord owned the building, but the tenant possessed its soul. The building’s owner did not need to renew the lease, and he did not need the money. The only bargaining tool of value that the tenant could bring to the table was the Space branding and its spirit, which he owned. Only two people know what deal was done behind closed doors that day. Still, rumours soon started to circulate that in exchange for an extension on the lease, the rights to trade the Space branding in Ibiza would transfer to the landlord, with Pepe retaining its international rights.

It is unknown to best Abel Matutes in a business deal in Ibiza

He is regarded as a shrewd but fair businessman who plans his moves in advance like a strategic chess player. The tenant was playing a master at the game, and whatever transpired at that meeting, things started to change for Space in Ibiza. In 2010 there was a rumour that Matutes was building a bridge between Ushuaia and Space, and in 2013 the freshly minted Matutes/Pissenem partnership Ushuaia Entertainment launched a Building Bridges with Friends event—a 24-hour party with Luciano at Ushuaia and Richie Hawtin at Space. The relationship between the tenant and the landlord worsened as Pepe was clearly unhappy. Grupo Matutes filed a complaint for fraud against his tenant, and Pepe sued his landlord for an attack on his integrity and good name, an act of war in Ibicenco culture. Space began to drift and lose direction and the services of its top parties, such as Enter, and We Love. It was as if the tenant knew what was coming and why to invest in a business that he would have to hand back in 2016.

If the tenant had traded his most valuable asset to remain in business, he would have deeply regretted that move when Hi was mooted in 2014. In 2009 Hi was a top-secret project as Matutes scouted for a new business partner with the relevant clubbing experience to manage a business he knew little about. He looked at Andy McKay of Manumission and Ibiza Rocks fame, they even went into partnership together, establishing Mallorca Rocks, but that project did not work out as Matute’s head was turned by an ambitious young Frenchman making waves outside his front door in Playa den Bossa. Yann Pissenem had opened his beach bar Ushuaia in the shadow of his empire. Pissenem had arrived on the island in a clapped-out old car that broke down as he boarded the ferry to Ibiza. He slept in that car, poring all his resources, energy and burning ambition into creating a successful business.

Matutes was impressed by the work ethic of the starry-eyed Frenchman as he turned Ushuaia into a huge success. Timing in life is everything, and Pissenem was in the right place at the right time with his Ushuaia beach bar. Matutes had found his new partner, and they established Ushuaia Entertainment Group, the vehicle for its clubbing-related business ventures. The three-star family hotel, Club Playa Den Bossa, became the uber-trendy Ushuaia Beach Hotel and three years later, Hi was built on the hallowed ground that Space once stood on. Now that partnership is ready to embark on a new project at Privilege. The world had a sneak look at its plans when Pissenem recently published a teasing Instagram post entitled “If you know, you know.”

So to answer our question. Who owns Space? It’s most likely that Matutes owns the Ibiza rights to trade the Space branding in Ibiza. All evidence points to this conclusion. The question is will Ushuaia Entertainment Group use that name at Privilege? Viewing it from a purely business perspective, they would be foolish not to. It is a high-value asset that is uniquely Ibicenco. Flawed, temperamental and charming but free in its spirit. The generation who were part of Pepes Space will find it difficult to bond with anything other than the original. However, if any new Space brand launches at Privilege, that generation will not be its target market. Remodelling Space would be like refitting the Starship Enterprise for the next generation. It may have a new captain and crew, but I feel modern audiences will love it for what it represents. An iconic ship whose mission it was to seek out new life and new music, to boldly go where no club has gone before. There is also an opportunity to settle old scores in this Space drama; revenge is a dish best served cold.

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