Spotify co-founder Martin Lorentzon has turned his attention to providing hits of another kind – as the main backer of new high-end padel club Padium in Canary Wharf.
Billionaire Lorentzon has partnered with London-based former banker Houman Ashrafzadeh to launch Padium, which boasts eight courts and opened its doors for the first time last week.
Ashrafzadeh decided to set up Padium after falling in love with the fast-growing racket sport in his native Sweden and discovering, to his dismay, how few courts there were in the UK.
After quitting his City career, Ashrafzadeh turned entrepreneur to set up salad bar chain Urban Greens and he believes he can replicate that success in the world of padel with his latest venture.
“Britain was behind with healthy fast food and the same with padel,” he told City A.M. “That’s when the idea first came to mind: why don’t I do something about this?”
Lorentzon, who founded Spotify with friend Daniel Ek in 2008 and still owns 11 per cent of the £23bn-valued music streaming giant, was quick to spot the potential of Ashrafzadeh’s idea.
Padel has grown rapidly in profile over the last few years, through its popularity with stars such as David Beckham and Andy Murray as well as major investment from Qatar and the US.
Having already backed a direct-to-consumer coffee business that Ashrafzadeh established in Sweden, Lorentzon offered to become an equal partner in Padium.
“Padel is growing in the UK. He was equally surprised at how few courts there were here. It has become like a religion in Sweden,” Ashrafzadeh added.
“Martin kept his promise and we became partners. It’s definitely a good endorsement. He’s a very respected businessman and adds huge credibility to have him on board. It’s an honour.”
Padium replicates the premium experience of Swedish padel clubs, with 10m-high ceilings, swish changing rooms, a social area and shop — plus coaching from British No1 Jorge Martinez.
But the multi-million-pound club retains a quintessentially Scandinavian democratic accent, with membership optional and booking open to all on a pay-as-you-play basis.
It has already proven popular with players in Canary Wharf and beyond, with Ashrafzadeh reporting that much of September has already been booked up for corporate events.
His ambition is for Padium to host professional tournaments and, in time, spawn more branches across the UK.
“We’re building something with scale in mind,” he said. “We are already in talks with other landlords [about new clubs]. But before we run, we want to walk.”