Chief Executive Officer

CJ Cardenas currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of MEL Entertainment.  CJ has closed deals with some of the biggest companies in the world including theme park operator Merlin Entertainments and sports marketing agency the International Management Group (IMG-WME) since joining the team in 2016.  CJ is focused on a ‘best in class’ strategy for MEL Entertainment connecting IP owners with top tier companies who are leaders in their respective fields.

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Prior to joining MEL Entertainment CJ started his career in entertainment with a 4 year stint at Bear Grylls Ventures (BGV) – the media, branding and licensing firm of the world renowned adventurer and TV personality Bear Grylls.  CJ joined BGV in May of 2012 as the Head of Business Affairs where he was in charge of business strategy and deal negotiation across a wide spectrum of specialties including television (production and talent deals), endorsements, licensing, merchandising, publishing, speaking engagements and strategic joint ventures.  CJ achieved massive success during his time at BGV closing over 30 deals worth more than USD $20 million in value with a collective reach that spanned across the globe.  CJ was promoted to CEO of BGV in April 2015 and had managed to double company revenue by the end of his tenure.

CJ is professionally trained in corporate finance and started his career in investment banking at Banc of America Securities (now Bank of America / Merrill Lynch) where he would spend a total of 7 years covering the technology and real estate sectors.  CJ is also a successful entrepreneur having started and sold businesses in the service industry. 


Managing Director

Paul Gardiner serves as the Managing Director of MEL Entertainment which has secured long term deals with some of the largest companies in the world including theme park operator Merlin Entertainments and sports marketing agency the International Management Group (IMG-WME).

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Paul has worked in the tourism industry since 1998, specialising in marketing and hospitality in a wide range of settings.  He also co-founded a company called Legacy Ventures – a company that specializes in taking executive MBA students on study tours into emerging countries like China, India, and South Africa etc. In 2012 Paul met the television personality, explorer and extreme adventurer, Bear Grylls and today they have various business interests together – including the Bear Grylls Survival Academy and The Bear Grylls Adventure 

Paul is a Non-Executive Director of Camp Kerala, the UK’s leading Glamping Company. Paul is still very involved with Mantis Collection and he continues to work very closely with his father, Adrian, as they strive to grow their hotel portfolio throughout Africa and beyond.


Hospitality Director

John has worked in hospitality since leaving college. Although originally from the Wirral in the North West of England he moved to Buckinghamshire and worked with the opening team at Cliveden House Hotel in 1986. That was the start of his career in the luxury sector and includes operational experience in all hotel departments culminating working as a General Manager of Five Star hotels for fifteen years.

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Although the operational side of the business has been important the area that has given the most satisfaction has been in business development. In his time with the Cliveden Group he worked from the corporate office on projects to develop all the properties across their portfolio. Projects included the refurbishment of an old wing bringing online additional guest rooms at Cliveden, the complete refurbishment of the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath and complete refurbishment of the Cliveden Town House in London. He also headed up projects to design a conference hotel on the Cliveden Estate and in the city of Edinburgh.

In 2003 Mantis acquired the Draycott Hotel in London, John was running the hotel at the time and has stayed with the group ever since. In his time with Mantis he has headed up the UK hospitality team running their properties and constantly looking for the next exciting project to add to the already diverse list of properties. During his time to date he has worked on projects in Rwanda, Nigeria, France and the UK.

In 2007 Mantis joined the team as the hotel operator on a project to refurbish an old historical hotel in the Cotswolds. This was John’s project until the hotel opened in 2011. Ellenborough Park quickly became established as one of the finest hotels in the area and achieved Five Star status later that year becoming the only Five Star hotel in Gloucestershire. John subsequently took the General Manager role himself from 2012 to 2015.

John is still living in Buckinghamshire with his wife Sally and children Emily and Edward. His favourite hobby is photography which has been really useful on his many trips across Europe and Africa looking at opportunities for Mantis.