The famous Claridge in Brussels is well known to generations of Brussels locals. The venue opened its doors more than 88 years ago.
Taken over in 2013 by a family of entrepreneurs. The Claridge has evolved from a nightclub into a reception and cultural venue open to both individuals and businesses.
In this video, discover :
- Who is Mr Ben, the entrepreneur who made the takeover of Claridge's one of the ingredients of a new direction after a long and successful career in commerce and distribution?
- Why and how the Claridge's business model has evolved in recent years, from a nightclub to a fully-fledged events company at the start of the COVID crisis;
What motivated Mr Ben to turn to crowdlending to breathe new life into a project in which his family is fully involved?
- What are the reasons behind BeeBonds at to believe in this great project and to offer the unprecedented level of guarantees proposed to investors for a participative financing campaign in the real estate sector;
- How the funds raised will be invested in a renovation project for 8 flats in a street where the majority of flats have been sold off-plan.
[00:00:02.310] - Philippe Szombat
Hello everyone, for those of you who can see us on Facebook Live, here are two surprise guests. They're two guests who aren't used to being behind the microphone. At least, not at this level. They're more at Arabel's offices. I have the pleasure and honour of welcoming two of Arabel's leading figures, Mr Ben himself. Good evening Mr Ben.
[00:00:28.140] - Mr Ben Yaghlane ("Mr Ben")
[00:00:28.140] - Philippe Szombat
And his son Taïeb.
[00:00:30.360] - Taïeb Ben Yaghlane
[00:00:31.110] - Philippe Szombat
Good evening, Taïeb. So, why is this exceptional? Because I had to insist on it for a long time. In fact, it's been decided. I made the request a week ago. For Mr Ben to come here. And it took until the last minute today for him to agree to be here. And here's why. He said to me: I'm the boss of Arabel. He didn't say it like that, but I translate. And I don't want to be on the shows. In this case, I felt it was necessary and important that Mr Ben, who is an exceptional entrepreneur with a long business history for those who know it. Taking over a radio station like Arabel with a soul, with a history behind it, is a mark of an honourable and exceptional person. And so, to that end, obviously, it seemed necessary to me that, as Arabel not his only project with his son Taïeb who are here. Because it is a family business. I felt it was important for him to come and talk about his project himself. So Joël, we're talking about an historic project here?
[00:01:53.860] - Joël Duysan
Yes, for us, it's all about Claridge. Today there was an amusing article by Philippe Coulée in the Echo de la Bourse saying: We must save the soldier Claridge! And it's true that we can save the Claridge soldier through public funding. Through public financing backed by a first mortgage guarantee. And for BeeBondsThis is really exceptional, in the sense that it's the first time we've approached investors with an offer to finance a property project for which we can give them a first-ranking mortgage guarantee. It's never been done before.
[00:02:30.410] - Philippe Szombat
And first in line means that the first people to be repaid are BeeBonds investors.
[00:02:38.830] - Joël Duysan
Yes, because the amounts proposed for funding range from a minimum of €1.4 million to a maximum of €1.8 million. Mr Ben can explain this better than I can. But the fact remains that we have succeeded for the investors who still have confidence in Claridge and who want to revitalise Claridge and enable Mr Ben and his son to sell the 8 flats on the front of Chaussée Louvain in their best interests. But we said OK, we'll do it. We have a lot of respect for you. But for the investors, if we could have some guarantees since the bank will no longer be there. And Mr Ben said: OK, I'll issue 100 % as a first-ranking mortgage guarantee. And for us, that's really exceptional because it's never been done before.
[00:03:21.720] - Philippe Szombat
It's a mark of absolute confidence.
[00:03:24.000] - Joël Duysan
In terms of investors. It's really the most secure project we've been able to put on the platform.
[00:03:29.100] - Philippe Szombat
Of the 30 projects we've talked about.
[00:03:31.680] - Joël Duysan
Yes, no project has a mortgage guarantee of 100 % on a prime property like the Claridge. And we're very proud to be able to offer investors and delighted to be able to work with the ben
[00:03:43.680] - Philippe Szombat
So, Mr Ben, tell me about Claridge, because it's quite a story. First of all, could you explain the history of Claridge in a few words? For anyone living in Brussels, it's obviously "the place to be". When you say Claridge, everyone's eyes light up. Tell us a bit about the history of the Claridge and why you decided to open it 8 years ago? Is that right? To invest in Claridge.
[00:04:15.290] - Mr Ben
Firstly, the Salle Claridge is a legendary venue in Brussels. The whole 40+ generation remembers it. It's a venue that has left many echoes. It's also a venue that's been around for almost 88 years.
[00:04:35.730] - Philippe Szombat
Almost a hundred years old already
[00:04:40.650] - Mr Ben
I'd say that 2013 is a pivotal year for me because I'm getting out. I'm starting to move away from the traditional commercial world towards a new business, a much more social business. And it was the year I got involved in events. In which I believe. But not just events. The world of radio and associations.
[00:05:11.280] - Philippe Szombat
I'm thinking about it now. Mr Ben: you're a unifier.
[00:05:15.730] - Mr Ben
You know, at every age you change your vocation. In 2013, it was a big change for me. I was no longer content to buy equipment and material things and sell them at a profit. I found that I was no longer satisfied. That's what I wanted. I wanted to change direction and see that what I do has an impact on people.
[00:05:51.920] - Philippe Szombat
In fact, you have nothing left to prove. In fact, you have succeeded in your life. As far as you've gone.
[00:05:59.240] - Mr Ben
I did an experiment. It was a humble experience. I've learnt a lot, with a lot of partners that I thank along the way. Now, in 2013, for me change is very important. Because the logic is different. The vision is different and the pleasure is different. It's hard to explain the added value of my work in a radio station or in an events venue compared to my work in a supermarket.
[00:06:35.010] - Philippe Szombat
But you still created jobs. You need to look back on your career. You should never regret anything and above all, as you often do, look to the future. Today, there's a project: the Claridge. So, 8 years ago, you invested in Claridge. You invested your soul, your work and your energy. You also included your family in this project. And today, as Joël was saying, in L'Echo - one of Belgium's biggest newspapers - people are saying "save the Claridge soldier". Why "save" him?
[00:07:12.130] - Mr Ben
Investing in Claridge's means making a commitment to the world of events. The world of events is a very important one. It's one of society's valves.
[00:07:24.850] - Philippe Szombat
Yes, but at a time when I'm still hearing about culture, we're trying to talk about it less and less. But is there really such a thing as soul?
[00:07:35.250] - Mr Ben
You can't live without culture.
[00:07:37.330] - Philippe Szombat
We agree. I totally agree.
[00:07:39.290] - Mr Ben
We cannot live in a world of events. Today, Brussels, although little talked about, has an extraordinary international position.
[00:07:51.490] - Philippe Szombat
It is the second most cosmopolitan city after Dubai.
[00:07:56.980] - Mr Ben
[00:07:56.980] - Philippe Szombat
We can't stop 140 nationalities from going out, meeting each other and sharing culture.
[00:08:04.120] - Mr Ben
And that's the first reason. To all our listeners so that they understand why, both me and my son. We're still committed to the business. We certainly believe in the recovery, as soon as the conditions are lifted.
[00:08:25.750] - Philippe Szombat
That's right. In Israel, they celebrate. In England, too, which is even closer.
[00:08:36.160] - Mr Ben
That's why, when Joël asked me: is there a possibility of giving guarantees to investors? I didn't hesitate for a second. But now... Why save the soldier? Yes, because I have. I've had 27, 30 years of experience with banks and I can't take it any more.
[00:09:01.540] - Philippe Szombat
[00:09:04.360] - Mr Ben
I can't take it any more.
[00:09:06.180] - Philippe Szombat
I don't like them either.
[00:09:09.520] - Mr Ben
I've been saying it for some time: the banks are no longer playing their role in the economy. We need to recognise this and change partners. That's why I've joined forces with BeeBonds on this project. And you know something that is very subtle, but very important. Having the feeling that dozens, hundreds of small investors have believed in your project and have put money in with you. Look at the beauty. So it's not a bank. It wasn't a bank employee who said yes to this project. No, it's a panoply of investors, from small investors to large investors who believe in your project. What a pleasure that is for the entrepreneur. And what a responsibility! And that's different. And this is the experience we started. I can assure you, it's given me a new enthusiasm. I'm at the end of my career. I'm now handing over to my children so that they can carry on. But this type of collaboration has given me a new enthusiasm for investing.
[00:10:40.380] - Philippe Szombat
In fact, on the one hand we have a human platform. We have human project leaders. I think the only thing missing tonight is the third person. The third wheel, I'd like to say, is the investors who believe in this project. There are already two of them here. So will Yvonnes and Frédéric be investing in this project?
[00:11:05.170] - Yvonne Barcelona
It's already done.
[00:11:06.760] - Frédéric Struyf
It's already done
[00:11:06.760] - Philippe Szombat
So now it's just me who's late to the table.
[00:11:20.170] - Mr Ben
So I'm just going to capitulate on this issue so that listeners understand it. It consists of three major blocks. The first block. Clearly, we believe in the events business and we are convinced of an extraordinary recovery.
[00:11:48.870] - Philippe Szombat
I'd like to get back to that. Taieb, you're your father's son. Obviously, it was well put, but I said it anyway. I couldn't have said anything. It's true that your father is quite a personality. Now, beyond what you inherited, you didn't have a golden life either. You shouldn't think so. I think your father taught you well. Tell us more about this project. In concrete terms, were the events, the last few years, the events before COVID, a success? How did the Claridge actually work?
[00:12:33.320] - Taïeb Ben Yaghlane
In fact, it's important to remember that when we arrived at Claridge's, it operated mainly as a nightclub. It was a nightclub when we took over before 2013. And after carrying out major renovation work to bring the Claridge up to date with the latest technology, we were able to restart the business with a different policy. We decided to broaden the range of events we could offer from institutional events to corporate events, mainly. To everything to do with ethnic events. We became specialists in everything to do with ethnic concerts. At weekends, we also did quite a few private events. Weddings, christenings, all kinds of private ceremonies.
[00:13:19.090] - Taïeb Ben Yaghlane
In fact, it was almost non-stop. The big constraint of the nightclub business is that you're limited to working at weekends. Which isn't very interesting and doesn't offer a very pleasant quality of life for the people who work there. Here we've managed to develop a number of event-related activities that have enabled us to keep a very busy schedule. We were practically working 5 or 6 days a week in the big weeks. A very, very versatile business. And that's why if I had to sum up the venue in one word today, it would be really, really versatile, enabling us to host film shoots as well as conferences and product launches.
[00:14:03.250] - Philippe Szombat
Even film shoots are not bad.
[00:14:03.700] - Taïeb Ben Yaghlane
Yes, especially since, with COVID, we had to find alternatives and be creative.
[00:14:12.650] - Philippe Szombat
And I think that's proof of excellent management on the one hand. On the one hand, you've remodelled and rethought all the marketing and the products you were going to sell at Claridge. And taking a calculated, well-considered risk, moving from the night-time world to the more 'corporate' evening world and, above all, filling the number of days at Claridge's, rather than making it a venue for just one or two nights.
[00:14:43.700] - Taïeb Ben Yaghlane
It's true that that was the big difficulty at the beginning. It was the big gamble that paid off in the end.
[00:14:49.790] - Philippe Szombat
Yes, very much so.
[00:14:51.050] - Taïeb Ben Yaghlane
Exactly. Everyone in the events world was surprised that Claridge's was changing direction a bit because it had been a nightclub for more than a decade.
[00:15:01.610] - Taïeb Ben Yaghlane
At the time, Paul Sterck owned both the Mirano and the Claridge, which was the golden age for both venues. So, after that, taking the gamble of changing direction to appeal to the corporate sector, when we had the discotheque label, was quite complicated. But we managed. It's true that the first few years were difficult. Especially when we first opened, there were the attacks in Brussels, so the events business took a hit. We had a few years that were a bit difficult. We didn't get off to the kind of start we should have because of the investments we'd made when we opened. But over time, just before the crisis, we had 17 events for the famous March event.
[00:15:49.460] - Philippe Szombat
17 events, that's incredible!
[00:15:49.460] - Taïeb Ben Yaghlane
It was running at full speed.
[00:15:54.980] - Philippe Szombat
It's going to start again. There are pauses in life, there are pauses at every level, and I think this is something that's going to pick up again. So I don't think there's any real doubt. I'd like to say we're going to get out of this crisis and we're going to, we're going to save the Claridge, Monsieur ben. Tell us a little about this project
[00:16:15.200] - Mr Ben
Just to finish. We wanted to talk about event-based activities, which are the main business. Now, alongside that, the BeeBonds project involves an investment, and it has to. There are eight flats,
[00:16:32.270] - Philippe Szombat
So you're really going to renovate the flats above the Claridge, which are completely insulated. You won't hear a fly flying in the room.
[00:16:41.210] - Mr Ben
The hall has been completely reworked in terms of acoustics and a study by an events expert showed that the Claridge hall is the number 1 hall in terms of acoustic quality.
[00:16:54.140] - Philippe Szombat
[00:16:56.570] - Mr Ben
There will be 8 flats in the development. Large flats. An average of 100 m2 per flat.
[00:17:08.900] - Philippe Szombat
Beautiful flats in the centre of Brussels, not far from the Stock Exchange
[00:17:15.560] - Mr Ben
And for your information, the entire Chaussée de Louvain has already been negotiated. Virtually all the projects have been sold off-plan.
[00:17:30.020] - Philippe Szombat
It's well known that there is a shortage of flats in Brussels.
[00:17:34.540] - Mr Ben
Everything opposite the Claridge has been sold. Everything next to Claridge's has been sold. And there's nothing there now, but it's all been sold. Just to reassure you that this part of the development, on the flat side, is a very good niche. It's one of the scenarios in which, with the proceeds from the sale of the flats, we're going to reimburse the investors.
[00:18:01.690] - Joël Duysan
It's a great project. It's a great project, and it's coming at just the right time. Because the events industry has been hit by the COVID crisis, the banks are not intervening, as Mr Ben says. So the only help we can get is help that is linked to the financing of the property project through public savings. And Mr Ben is committed to reimbursing the investors, as well as providing a guarantee.
[00:18:34.330] - Philippe Szombat
At worst, in inverted commas, a disaster is no big deal.
[00:18:38.230] - Joël Duysan
In any case, that's what we want to do. The aim is to resell.
[00:18:41.860] - Philippe Szombat
How much funding are we looking for?
[00:18:46.750] - Joël Duysan
1.8 million and the guarantee relates to a building valued at €3.2 million.
[00:18:50.980] - Philippe Szombat
So the risk is 0, it's as clear as day. One final word. Once we've reached 1.8 million euros, we turn off the tap. That's the end of it. For those who want to invest, whether you are, as we keep saying, small investors, you have ... how much is the minimum for this project?
[00:19:10.620] - Joël Duysan
[00:19:11.190] - Philippe Szombat
You have 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 15,000 euros...
No, because there is no tax shelter. You can go as high as you like.
As high as you like. Up to a million. Yes, so there's already a lot. Two investors have already put in a lot of money because they really believe in it. In any case, I think it's a great project. Let's all save the Claridge soldier together. So there you have it, thank you listeners. In any case, thank you for following us on Tout Le monde Peut Entreprendre. It's a really great programme dedicated to entrepreneurship. And thank you to all our listeners for your confidence. And we'll be back next Tuesday with Nadine Minampala. Have a good evening and see you soon.