The Lineker Ibiza Files

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Written by Dan Kirwan

When Abel Matutes Jnr was just starting to transform a family friendly resort in PDB into an adults only, trendy and fashionable holiday destination back in 2012, Wayne Lineker was opening his first Ibiza bar, Linekers in San Antonio. It was no different from any British Tourist Bar in the Med, loud, in your face and crazy but in Ibiza, Lineker and his business partner, Tony Truman, saw the huge potential San Antonio offered to upscale their product and soon trained their eyes on an old restaurant sitting on a large plot of land next to the sea.

Now this is where the story gets interesting and why there is so much controversy and legal wranglings over the licences casting doubt over the ability of Ocean Beach to open in its current guise next season.

To assist with the complex bureaucracy that surrounds the licencing process in Ibiza, which can change according to the Government in situ at any given time, (just ask Micheal Cretu) they employed the services of a local legal consultancy firm, which also has property dealings in the San Antonio tourism sector. There were rumours that this Spanish family firm were silent partners with Ocean Beach, which would be par for the course in Ibiza as it’s considered best practice for non national companies doing business on the island to have a partner with skin invested in the game to offer expert advice on any given subject.  A type of agent you could say.    

Around the same time, Ocean Beach went on a spending spree and added to their growing property portfolio by purchasing a low budget, run down hotel called The Apolo in San Antonio for less than €600,000 on the open market. In today’s market, the Apolo is now worth millions. The hotel never opened to the public and currently houses all OB staff- a big incentive for any employee working in San Antonio and a great way to retain staff for an employer.

Then came Skinny Kitchen, a prime property on the front line of the harbour and in 2016 they acquired another low budget Hotel when they purchased the front line Costa Mar from the Azuline Hotel Group, beating off stiff competition, including a well known local Spanish company. To say they were making waves on the San Antonio property scene, was an understatement, but all the deals were conducted on the open market and sold legitimately as far as the Lineker Group were concerned.

They had spotted the opportunities and potential that San Antonio possessed and took a punt on it,  investing substantial capital into the resort, which in turn improved the image and product of San Antonio which was slowly emerging from the 18-30 cheap and cheerful era championed by the West End bars and clubs.

Their vision for Ocean Beach was an overnight success. Pool parties during the afternoon starting at 3pm completely changed the diynamic of San An, with the West End feeling the pinch, as many of their potential customers were wasted by 9pm, the traditional going out time for many party tourists. Ibiza Rocks also suffered, as did other British owned venues in San Antonio and it wasn’t long before Ibiza Rocks ended their live bands and copied the Ocean Beach business model. Reports suggested that pool parties at least trebled Bar turnover and DJ’s were more economical and easier to manage than bands. 

From 2014 to 2019 Ocean Beach was lording it in San Antonio raking in ridiculous amounts of cash which stunned the local community who never realised the British market could spend so much in a few hours, dealing in thousands rather than pounds, the mainstay of the British market in San Antonio up to 2012.

When Linekers first opened, I remember them offering all you can drink deals for €10 

and I watched them evolve to selling €10K bottles of Champagne to A List celebrities like Conor McGregor and Olly Murs, not to mention a vast army of Z List and Instagram Wanabies. The Brits in San Antonio were now spending like the Irish at Cheltenham and the locals were intrigued. 

When you start making money in Ibiza, it’s like the scent of blood to a shark in the sea. You start attracting every freeloader, salesman and pirate on the island trying to feed off your hard earned success and looking for a cut of the cake. Depending on what political party you are aligned to, it makes a big difference, especially if your team is not in power and you are left open to scrutiny.

When the socialist Mayor attempted to fast track an illegal Chiringuito licence in Cala Gracio in 2017, the conservative opposition party jumped on a bandwagon of outrage and criticism, claiming the development was corrupt and linking the licence to a relation of the Mayor. The building had to be demolished and removed and the incident severely damaged the socialists, ushering in a new conservative led government just this year.

 

When you start making money in Ibiza, it’s like the scent of blood to a shark in the sea

i What we are witnessing now, is the socialist opposition returning fire on the conservatives in a tit for tat political game with Ocean Beach caught in the crossfire as it’s such an easy target thanks to the loud and divisive image of its English owner Wayne Lineker and the local consultancy firm behind him. If you can’t stand the heat of the scorching hot political kitchen of Ibiza, then you shouldn’t be there, as the island is littered with the corpses of many naive businesses. If there was a Top 40 chart of Dubious Ibiza Licensing projects, the current Ocean Beach drama would not even register on it, such is the level of questionable licences granted to others in the past.

One of the main factors in the Ocean Beach success story, has been the effectiveness of its social media content. Digital marketing is all about engaging with followers of your brand, and Ocean Beach have been masters at playing this game. Engagement drives exposure and I remember well a cleverly manufactured incident back in 2016 when Lineker, rather than sacking a male employee for having sex with clients in the OB toilets, offered him a promotion to management. While this marketing ploy incurred the wrath of female activists, it played directly to Linekers main target market, young males aged 18-30. While he may have pushed the envelope of good taste back in 2016 and got away with it, a similar publicity stunt last month where Lineker was seen manhandling “reject” girls into a pool has ignited a social media storm with feminists, not such a clever move in light of the Harvey Weinstein and Jeffery Epstein affairs. Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn and Lineker will want to tread carefully as last week’s video crossed the line in good taste and some on the island viewed it as sleazy.

 

The incident was clearly staged as a publicity stunt. All the girls partaking in the video were employees of Love Island actress, Kate Salmon, the winner of the “contest” and a business associate of Ocean Beach. The stunt was designed to court controversy and exposure in a season where Ocean Beach and others were silenced due to strict Covid19 laws introduced by the socialist led Balearic Government in Palma. Even without the benefit of hindsight, it was a poor business decision to open any club dependent business this season and everybody that did, fully deserved what they received in fines and sanctions as the local Government couldn’t have spelled it out any clearer for them, the consequences if they did open. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.  

 

Another legal battle Lineker lost this summer was a case where an ex-pro footballer sued Ocean Beach for €8.5 million damages after an accident in a swimming pool left him paralysed. OB had fought to have the case heard in a Spanish court but a Judge recently ruled that it can be held in the UK adding an estimated 20-30% premium to costs and any settlement. It’s also a landmark ruling that may have implications for future cases and after opening this summer, there are rumours that some of Linekers staff may have tested positive for Covid19 and those individuals could start legal action if they were exposed to the virus by an employer playing games with local health and safety laws.  

So where does this leave Ocean Beach as a venue going forward? Will they open again next season, or will they be treated like the Cala Gracio case and asked to remove illegal structures? From what I am currently hearing on the ground in Ibiza, the venue will be fined and receive a slap on the wrist and asked to conform with strict new guidelines and licences. It’s all very fluid politically on the island right now and I get the feeling anything could happen, this is why I feel OB needs to go on a charm offensive and convince the local community that it will try to be more a part of local culture than apart from it, as Boris Johnson seems to have abandoned British subjects interests abroad . This will also be an issue next year with the advent of Brexit, as all British tourists and employees will require visas to work on the island placing them at a disadvantage from European Union workers. 

Opinion on Wayne Lineker is divided both on the island and in the UK. I have never met the man, and I have no reason to dislike him as we have never crossed swords, he minds his own business, I look after mine – an unwritten rule on the island. Ibicencos admire larger than life, edgy characters and from my perspective, Lineker has earned the right to his success and one would feel Ibiza is an ideal home for his distinctive personality. I don’t think any of the negative press bothers him, like Micheal O’Leary of Ryanair, he considers all press good press and cleverly employs much of it to deflect from other issues.

Only recently we saw him playing the sympathy card in a dejected post on Instagram announcing that he was finally raising the white flag of surrender on what was a horrid season for absolutely everybody on the island this summer. British culture adds value to the island and it would  be a poorer place without its energy and style and for this reason alone, I feel Ocean Beach will continue to be its unofficial embassy in Ibiza next summer.

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