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Dubai bankers club seeks turnaround after membership dwindles

[DUBAI] Dubai financial district's members-only business club is seeking money to turnaround the exclusive meeting spot once-favoured by the city's top dealmakers.

Capital Club Dubai is working with the investment banking arm of Emirates NBD PJSC to raise about 30 million dirhams (S$11.1 million) as part of plans that include bringing in a new management team and restructuring debt.

"The funds will be utilised to pay off existing debts, improve and refurbish the club," according to a statement from Capital Club Dubai. "Every effort shall be made to manage it successfully and profitably, increase revenue and reduce costs."

Once one of the city's most exclusive places to do business, the venue isn't being spared the economic slump that's weighing on the emirate. Membership - which costs about US$5,500 a year to access meeting rooms, a gym, a fine dining restaurant and a sports bar in the heart of the financial district - has dropped to about 1,000 from a peak of roughly 1,500 members.

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The club's difficulties mirror a wider slowdown in Dubai's financial services industry that's been impacted as global banks retreat to their home markets. Barclays plc and Deutsche Bank AG have been cutting jobs, while the Abraaj Group, once one of the finance hub's major tenants, also collapsed last year.

A new board of directors chaired by Hussain Sultan Al Junaidy has taken over management of Capital Club Dubai from Signature Clubs International Ltd, owned by United Arab Emirates-based developer Enshaa Holdings Ltd. Enshaa wasn't available to comment.

Mr Al Junaidy has committed six million dirhams to the capital raising, while the remaining 24 million dirhams will come from other investors. The club hopes to double membership numbers by the end of next year.