When the football in France is over and England players need to let off some steam, several of them are likely to call on the discreet services of two British entrepreneurs with the keys to Las Vegas: James Barrington-Madders and Elias Antoniou
Las Vegas. Sin City. It’s a veritable playground for UK’s elite, from sports stars to supermodels. For James Barrington-Madders and Elias Antoniou, it was an untapped business opportunity.
The two run London2VegasVIP, the only VIP hosting service exclusively for Brits in the party capital of the world.
A rough start
Barrington-Madders lost his father to cancer when he was 21, which was the push he needed to go Stateside. “Dad was a property developer and worked in Spain and in the US. He was my best mate, a smart, intelligent guy; an old-school gent,” he says.
James left school at the age of 17 and started working in a nightclub. At 18, he was managing the venue and for the next five years worked in the busy south coast club scene where he learnt the hospitality trade and made many contacts.
At 23, his father’s advice to go to American to make money started to weigh heavily on his mind. Barrington-Madders left his hometown of Hove with a little more than £920 to his name.
“It is so hard for young people in the South East to enjoy a good standard of living, even if you are earning £50,000 a year, which is a good wage. I love England and I miss it but out here, doing what I do, I get six a figure salary. Dad’s words focussed my mind,” the 29-year-old self-made entrepreneur says.
Barrington-Madders took a chance on Vegas, betting on a contact he had in the hospitality industry to help him get a foot in the door.
“It wasn’t easy. I got on the plane and didn’t have a clue what I was going to do. I was crying on the flight because I was so scared. I left my mum and my sister. All I had was a vague promise that I might get some work,” he remembers.
The turning point
After a couple of months James secured a job running a popular pool party at one of The Strip’s hotels. The weekly party attracted a crowd of affluent young people, many of them British.
A year after moving to Vegas, James met Londoner Elias Antoniou, who was running a hosting business in the UK. Antoniou had been a successful stockbroker and had enjoyed many holidays in Las Vegas. When the markets became quiet following the 2008 crash, he started looking at other business options.
Ex-nightclub manager James Barrington-Madders & former city worker Elias Antoniou run London2VegasVIP, the only VIP hosting service exclusive for party-hungry Brits.
“I knew I wanted to be in Vegas and I wanted a business that was based on the clubbing scene out there. I developed it and promoted it from London and it got bigger and bigger until I decided to move there,” says Antoniou.
Barrington-Madders reached out to Antoniou after spotting his company on Twitter. “We met up, we became good friends and after six months we joined together and created London2VegasVIP.”
Discipline is key
“Vegas has changed massively. When I first started going there 12 years ago, people only went there to gamble. When the recession happened, the casinos realised people were less inclined to fritter money away gambling so they started to develop clubs as a way of gaining revenue. Five or six years ago, the DJs came, and now people come to see them,” Antoniou explains.
Clients spend upwards of $11,000 on a group night out for the best VIP experience the city can offer. According to Barrington-Madders, staying professional is crucial, which means ignoring the ‘temptations’ on offer.
“Vegas can destroy a man easily. Every temptation is here but I went there for a career, not for a lifestyle. I have never been a big drinker, and after a while you see beneath the gloss anyway. I wanted to create a business and I kept my head down and made as many contacts as I could,” according to Barrington-Madders.
Antoniou agreed, explaining how clients tend to want the two founders to party with them. “It takes a lot of discipline. You have to be completely business-minded,” he says.
“Because our clients are in the UK when we finish with groups in the club, we still go home and work until around 5AM so it just wouldn’t work out if you go home and you’re drunk. When you are around it every night, it doesn’t seem that special anymore.”
The best of British?
Vegas has seen a boom from the UK as jaded Brit clubbers abandon the traditional destinations of Ibiza, Ayia Napa and Marbella for superclubs such as Omnia in Caesar’s Palace, Vegas, which attracts superstar DJs like Calvin Harris.
“Clients will get a table and have a budget to spend on alcohol. I had a group of six guys last week who spent $11,500 but in order for you to make a buzz there you have to spend at least $20,000,” Antoniou explains.
The infamous Caesar’s Palace on the Vegas strip
In a city known for its hustlers, Barrington-Madders and Antoniou see their business as a way to also look out for their compatriots with the advantage of being British.
“There were a lot of hustlers out here and before we set up no one was specifically looking after the Brits,” Barrington-Madders says. “People trust us because we are British.”
UK’s who’s who
Their first big contract was footballer Gareth Barry’s 30th birthday. He brought his footballer friends, James Milner, Frank Lampard and Joe Hart.
“They had a budget of around £100,000, and as a company, we sorted out an itinerary for them, got them the best tables in the best clubs, accompanied them and made sure everything went smoothly, which is what we do for everyone,” Barrington-Madders explains.
England goalie Joe Hart (above) is a regular customer, as well as other premiership players including Tom Cleverly, Stephen Ireland, Steve Sidwell and Andy Carroll.
“From our experience we know what the best clubs are on any given night. We do everything Vegas; shows, strip clubs, shooting ranges.‘We arrange the trips from start to finish, apart from the flights. We can get reservations where normal visitors can’t because of the relationships we have built up with the venues.”
Working hard, play hard
During party season in the summer the partners often work seven days a week, accompanying clients out on the town. For Barrington-Madders, the long nights and bright lights can lose their lustre.
“I’ve probably seen Calvin Harris perform 100 times. I could tell you his whole track listing,’ he laughs.
As part of their workday routine, the pair have seen numerous live performances by the likes of Mariah Carey, Elton John, and J-Lo, as well as Cirque du Soleil shows, and Floyd Mayweather’s fights.
“But when I get a day off, I make sure I stay away from The Strip and try and do something normal like go to the cinema or go bowling,” he says.
The destination is now a firm favourite with the celeb set and the duo have several footballers booked in over the coming months. This year Antoniou estimates they have passed $4 million through the doors of some of the city’s most popular venues.
“It’s all about discretion,” says Barrington-Madders. “I’ve seen everything and I’ll never tell because that’s what we build our reputation on. What goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”