Guy Ngata, new GM of Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Guy Ngata has become pretty good at packing. After a four-year stint at Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, Ngata moved to Shanghai, China, in 2010 to helm Mercedes-Benz Arena for AEG. Having seen the facility through its opening and bringing more than 1 million visitors to the facility in its first year of operation, Ngata has accepted the position of GM at Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia, for AEG Ogden. He will begin his new role in mid-September.
How did the move come about? “It was a series of phone calls with the executives at AEG Ogden and a discussion about an opportunity at Allphones Arena,” said Ngata. “From the discussion, it progressed into a contract for an opportunity moving forward.”
For Ngata, who lived and worked in New Zealand for more than a decade, it was an opportunity to work again with the promoters and clients of Allphones Arena, he came to know from his time at Vector Arena.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to still be part of the AEG Worldwide family and to work with the team in Australia, whom I have known for some time and think very highly of,” said Ngata. “Australia’s a very established market and a brilliant place to live. I’ve spent a lot of time there both on holiday and working with promoters, so I’m excited about the opportunity to be there on a more permanent basis.”
Before his time as director of Operations and then CEO of Auckland’s Vector Arena, he held roles with Auckland Rugby Football Union and the city’s Trusts Stadium.
Ngata said that his years at the $400-million Mercedes-Benz Arena was full of learning opportunities.
“We had what I would describe as the toughest soft opening ever,” said Ngata. The building opened officially two weeks after the World Expo in Shanghai. During the Expo, Mercedes-Benz Arena brought more than 8 million visitors through the building over 184 consecutive event days.
Just 15 days after the Expo closed, Mercedes-Benz Arena hosted five sold-out shows by Faye Wong.
“That was a really tight turn. Not only was there a lot to get done after the Expo, but Faye Wong wasn’t a small event. She brought 75,000 people to the arena over five nights,” added Ngata.
The 18,000-seat arena hosted 76 performances during its first year, the majority of which were Chinese and Asian-language artists. Among the Western bookings were the Eagles, James Blunt, and Cirque du Soleil.
Ngata said that the key to working in a different area is to stay open and eager to learn.
“You have to be mindful of the cultural nuances. It was about me adapting the style of my work with my team and making sure that we brought a very international flavor into the building, while being mindful of certain differences in terms of the Chinese consumer,” said Ngata. “China is very strong in its cultural identity. You can’t just superimpose your wish list, you need to find a balance.”
In China, many arena events are built with lots of elaborate, moving parts. There is a very high-end production value, but they take a long time to build and deconstruct, so working with promoters to establish the amount of time needed around an event is critical, said Ngata.
“I’m very proud of the work that we’ve initiated at Mercedes-Benz Arena and the work that will continue,” he added.
AEG China is in the process of deciding who will succeed Ngata in the role of GM for the building, but Ngata said that an announcement should be made soon.
Though moving to a different continent, one thing will stay the same for Ngata.
“It was very important for me to be able to stay part of AEG. To be part of a bigger network was always one of the big reasons for me to come to China and Mercedes-Benz Arena in the first place,” said Ngata. “To continue with AEG as opposed to being with a different company made the decision to move to Allphones Arena much easier.”
“It’s an inspirational company with great people and amazing leadership. I want to be with AEG for a long time to come,” added Ngata. “I am excited to be joining and leading the Allphones Arena team in Sydney. It is a venue that has been tremendously successful with a great group of people.”
Interviewed for this story: Guy Ngata, +61 (7) 3331 5162