Detmer is the 'real estate guy' with plans for Portman Road
- Credit: Archant
Mark Detmer became the last of Ipswich Town's new American-based co-owners to speak to the EADT and Ipswich Star recently. Here he talks Twitter, real estate and improving Portman Road.
Mark Detmer, in a somewhat throwaway fashion, refers to himself as 'a real estate guy'.
For someone who had made a living doing big deals, that is quite the under sale.
Senior managing director of global firm Jones Lang LaSalle, Detmer has, according to his Linkedin page, 'successfully negotiated over 2,000 transactions encompassing a half a billion square feet of sales and leases totalling more than $40 billion dollars in value'.
Then again, Brett Johnson, his fellow Phoenix Rising and Ipswich Town co-owner, had warned us that Mark is modest.
“My professional career is centred around industrial real estate and making markets," he explains, when pushed on his area of expertise.
"When you make a market you absolutely represent the best interests of the parties you represent in negotiations.
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“Sometimes, in order to do that, you’ve got to be tough. But in the end it’s about relationships – both with the party that you represent and the party on the other side of the table – in order to come up with very reasonable solutions to whatever the challenge might be.
“I think I can apply those same skills to football. I’ve done so here with Rising and will look to do so again with Ipswich Town Football Club."
Build it and they will come.
Back in 2017, Detmer was the driving force behind the rapid creation of a new 6,200 seater temporary stadium for Phoenix Rising. Incredibly, from groundbreaking to its official opening, the whole process took just 53 days.
The speed of that build, just in time for a new season, convinced Didier Drogba to sign. The opening match was a sell-out.
Fast-forward four years and Rising have just moved into their new 10,000-capacity Wild Horse Pass stadium, along with wider soccer complex. And there are plans to expand that further over time.
“That first stadium build was incredibly fast!" recalls Detmer. "We had to move quickly and get support from everyone.
“I’m talking people in permitting, contractors... we had to get public officials involved to get power turned on. We literally got a certificate to turn the lights on the day before the match. I don’t wish to do that again!
“Now we’ve just opened the new stadium, which will contain 10,000 fans, so it's exciting times."
All of which begs the question, what plans does he have for Portman Road? It's one of English football's much-loved traditional stadiums, but undoubtedly requires a bit of TLC.
“Being a real estate guy I'm keen to focus on what areas of the stadium we can quickly enhance and also come up with some very strategic plans for the more medium and long-term," says Detmer.
“Yes, there will be change at Portman Road, I think that’s necessary, but I hope fans realise these things take time. It took time to get it to where it is. It’s going to take time to build it back up.
“We hear a lot about what's needed. Obviously you can give it a paint and a clean up. We’ve heard about the scoreboard quite a bit.
“That will take a lot of planning and capital in order to make those changes.
“We need to get a plan in place. We haven’t been able to visit yet due to travel restrictions, but we are so anxious to get over and take a walk through.
“We’ve received a lot of information from (incoming CEO) Mark Ashton about the changes he’d like to make immediately in the way that Portman Road presents itself and to enhance fan experience."
Detmer refers there to having heard a lot about what's needed at Portman Road. The new Ipswich Town ownership group have certainly proven that their ears are open.
Already they have read the room and signed off a u-turn on season ticket refunds for 2020/21.
"We listen," said Detmer. “I joined Twitter because I had to create a platform for fans to engage.
“The amount of personal messages we have all received has been humbling. The fans have been phenomenal.
“We know that it’s going to ebb and flow over time. We know that there’s going to be frustrations at times, possibly with the team's performance or fan experience in the stadium.
“But we’re going to try to listen and correct any of that the best we can."
The visibility and accessibility of Johnson, Berke Bakay and Detmer inside the first seven weeks which have followed the takeover has certainly been refreshing after the previous 13 years of Marcus Evans shunning the limelight.
“Now I’m the third of the Three Lions to speak on your show - already we are showing that the culture is different," said Detmer, who, like his co-owners, has also appeared on a variety of fans' YouTube channels including Blue Monday, Talking Town and young content creator Taylor Poole.
“My partners and I absolutely want to get engaged with the community. We’re pretty forward facing relative to other ownership groups. I think that might set us apart.
“That culture of ‘we’re all in this together’ translates down to Mark Ashton, to Paul Cook and eventually to the players.
“We don’t view this as being any one person’s role or journey. It’s a community. It’s a club that’s for the fans.
“When you bring the right culture from the top down, and the people in front office understand what the message is, then I think great things happen."
He continues: “So it’s relationships, it’s the ability to connect with others, to listen, learn and to go and make changes all the way through.
“We’ve had outreach from supporters and they’ve been so kind to Berke, Brett and myself with their messages of support.
“But the messages have been about ‘the match we had in 81’ or ‘the season we had in 78’. So what resonated with us is that we’ve got a lost generation here of children that haven’t had the experience that their parents and grandparents have had with the success of the club out on the pitch.
"We'll try to enact change. Granted it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s taken many, many years to go from the Championship to League One. It’s going to take time, going brick-by-brick, to build the club back up."
It's at this point that I gently point out that, having said all of that, the 'word' patience doesn't appear to be in the Three Lions' vocabulary judging by the speed at which they've got things done in the past.
A little leadingly, perhaps, it's suggested that they must want success as quickly as possible.
“You mean yesterday?!" says Detmer, with a broad smile. "That’s the easy answer. Boy you hit the nail on the head!
“We are not very patient people! We try to be. But you’ve met my partners – we’re about results, results, results.
“We've been fortunate enough at Phoenix Rising to achieve those results, but it’s because of the time, energy, effort that goes into that.
“It doesn't just happen. You have to create it.
“But you’re right, we’re not the most patient people. I don’t think many people in football are.
“As much as they like to say they’re patient, take that with a grain of salt! Everybody wants to win every match. That's just the nature of the beast."
He continues: “Obviously we’ve funded the acquisition and we’ve fully funded the working capital for this first year to give Paul Cook all the resources that he needs.
“But it’s not just about capital, it’s about culture. That culture will hopefully drive fans, it will drive commercial and take us to our next step of the Championship.
“And then obviously anyone who is investing in English football is looking to get to the Premier League, as we are."