David Grutman lives in a sea of digital notes: endless waves of tweets, texts and e-mails crucial to filling an 18,000-square-foot nightclub and keeping a marketing ecosystem healthy. The electronic barrage rolls into the Lincoln Road office of the Miami Marketing Group, a company known for solving marketing problems with panache. When MTV needed a party suite for the VMAs, MMG created The Style Villa. When DirecTV needed buzz, they produced a celebrity flag football game with Eli Manning and Blake Lively on Super Bowl Sunday, plus an LL Cool J concert, resulting in one billion media impressions.
MMG Nightlife Beginnings
Though initially celebrity-and event-focused, MMG made an evolutionary leap a couple of years ago when friend Jeff Soffer suggested Grutman partner with him to operate LIV, the nightclub in Soffer’s $1 billion Vegas-like revamping of the fabled Fontainebleau Hotel. Soffer had envisioned it as a kind of perpetual event marketing space—perfect for Grutman’s team. Thus MMG Nightlife was born, as was a synergistic marketing environment on a scale Miami had never seen. MMG could create events at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach’s many spaces, the property’s restaurants could host Grutman’s celeb-heavy dinner parties, and LIV could debauch those same celebrities—all producing an avalanche of buzz for the venues and the celebs.
The results: Opening night, Gwyneth Paltrow, Diddy and a slew of other boldfaced names attended the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show; Lady Gaga performed poolside for New Year’s Eve 2009 (with a reported $1million in sales);Tïesto spun alongside Jamie Foxx at the Fontainebleau for New Year’s 2010. Tickets ran to $25,000. The opportunities unfolded naturally from there: a 10,000-square-foot, 800-person LIV outpost at Sun Life Stadium with $15,000 15-person cabanas, followed last autumn by the opening of the low-slung and intimate dance-music lounge Arkadia. This month, MMG launches Oro nightclub at the 1,800-room Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Breaking Into the Biz
Grutman, 36, is from Naples, Florida, and attended the University of Florida. After a stint as a South Beach bartender, he honed his celeb-wrangling skills via five years running Tantra, and another five heading up marketing at The Opium Group, the force behind Set, Mansion and Mokaï. From there he opened MMG with partners Brian Gordon and Ryan Schinman.
Miami nightlife entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Capponi met him in the early days, when The Opium Group opened Privé in 2002. One of Grutman’s strongest assets, he suggests, is his enviable Rolodex. “Publicist and agency connections are what helped him in the beginning; it’s now because of his personal relationships that he does such a great job,” he says. Nightclub kingpin Noah Tepperberg, co-owner of Avenue and Marquee in New York and Lavo in Vegas, has a different take: “Dave’s secret is his laser focus—whether it’s making sure the DJ is playing the right songs, the most important people in the room are comfortable, or the dancers’ new costumes look good.”
The Day-to-Day of Nightlife Marketing
All that focus makes Grutman’s schedule feel like a sort of boot camp. He’s in the office by 10 AM, rifling through the New York Post and The Miami Herald, as well as the tabloids. “I want to make sure LIV and Arkadia are in those magazines every week,” he says. Four o’clock kicks off hours of meetings with nightlife staff. On Tuesday nights there’s the poolside barbecue at Arkadia (“We try to feed models,” he says) followed by the Aloo party inside. Then there are the five nights a week he hosts dinner for 30 to 50 people at Fontainebleau restaurants, featuring worthies such as Brazilian oil magnate Eike Batista (the world’s eighth-richest man), A-Rod, touring DJs such as Erick Morillo and celebs like Kim Kardashian and Leonardo DiCaprio. “Our dinner parties have become pretty, ah, infamous,” laughs Grutman.
“At LIV we focus on tastemakers—the people who turn the needle for society,” he says, giving a nod to that Rolodex. Operators keep tabs on the coveted players who can be counted on to spend huge sums. “There’s, like, 20 to 50 guys you’ve never heard of—a Saudi prince, a Wall Street guy, a Russian steel person. We’re talking $20,000- to $80,000-a-pop guys. We have the sickest list you’ve ever seen.” As for girls, “You don’t want too many girls who are 5-foot-2,” he admits. “Everyone should be 5-foot-8 and above.”
Despite the nightlife glamour, Grutman lives in a 1940s villa in the quiet family neighborhood of Belle Meade along with two King Charles spaniels, Maggie and Sidney. “I have the koi pond. I know all my neighbors. We do dog things together.” He has a personal trainer and frequents Scarpetta when relaxing—but hasn’t put his feet in the actual sand of South Beach in 15 years. “I have no free time. I wish I had a hobby; I just don’t. I have to be on all the time.”
Grutman’s plans may take his business far, but this city clearly has him hooked. “I could live anywhere, but Miami’s international and eclectic. It’s the sexiest place in the world.”