Optimism abounds as Mipimites mingle

For the third year running TheLawyer.com has played host to legal bloggers sharing their experiences of Mipim, the world’s biggest property trade show. Partners at some of the UK’s leading real estate practices share the sights and sounds of Cannes and reveal who they met and where they drank…

Tuesday 8 March 2011


Bruce Dear, head of London real estate, Eversheds

‘Mipim’. To the uninitiated it sounds like a kid’s TV ­character. “Do people have to go to Mipim? Is it important?” asked a corporate client of mine on Monday.

The answer is yes. Why? Because Mipim is the UK’s biggest and most elaborate defensive drinking ­festival. If you’re not in Caffé Roma with your clients at 2am, then someone else is.

Nicky Richmond, joint managing partner and head of property finance, Brecher

Having taken last year off (needed a break after 14 years on the trot), I am ­looking forward to a big and memorable Mipim.

Previous highlights are:

Trying not to watch the rather pale buttocks of one of my rather proper former male partners disappear down the beach as he ran into the sea for a dare at 4.30am (you know who you are).

Meeting a developer in the Hotel Martinez at 5am, whose first words to me were: “I f***ing hate banks’ lawyers,” but who then asked his bank (and five other banks) to instruct my (then) firm on his work for the next decade.

Iain Thomas, real estate partner, LG

It is hard to feel anything other than positive at Mipim – the sun shines, the wine flows, the food is great. And every year the mood is optimistic – with the ­obvious exception of 2008.

So it was with a spring in my step that I approached the dinner hosted by Fairacre at one of Cannes’ more reputable fish restaurants. Fairacre partner ­Stuart Russell had gathered together a diverse bunch of lenders, investors (and lenders-turned-investors), asset managers, valuers, lawyers and just about every type of property professional that one could think of for his traditional ‘kick-off’ dinner. The mood was ­positive and everyone was polishing up their sales-speak ahead of a couple of days of tough networking.

However, the upbeat mood could not mask the fact that we are still a mile off a real and sustainable real estate recovery.

For every positive, there is still a qualification – the cost of money is still cheap BUT for how long? Funds are fully subscribed BUT there is still a chronic shortage of investment-grade stock and a lack of appetite for ­secondary and below. Banks are starting to deal with their ­distressed portfolios BUT not enough properties are being released to the market.

So like the breeze that blows down from the southern Alps, beneath the sunny outlook the wind is still chill.

Deborah Parry, real estate partner, Nabarro

Diary of an angry old woman at Mipim. Day one: alcohol intake 12 units (I made that up); ciggies 0 (never took it up); calories, too numerous to mention; and no Mr Darcy as yet.

And so to Cannes, after an absence of seven years. Many of the faces are the same, if a little longer, and the hotels are in more or less the same places as I remember them.

But this is a far more ­serious affair than in years gone by. In addition to a ­letter of introduction, ­passport, full anti-money laundering checks (and that’s just to pick up the pass to the bunker), every entry into the bunker, smart hotel etc involves submitting to the visual recognition machine that even the UK border people have yet to adopt. So no sharing passes, chaps. It will be easier to get back into Blighty than into the bar of the Carlton, so we went to the Martinez instead.

“Is it hard work?” I hear you ask. You bet it is! ­Schlepping up and down that Croisette all day in ­ridiculous shoes, smiling – all the time – that’s hard but someone has to do it.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Nicky Richmond

Woken up at 5am despite going to sleep at stupid o’clock. Debating whether to have breakfast before ‘breakfast’, where I have agreed to meet a real estate lawyer at 9.30am.

Decide I cannot justify e34 plus ­service charge plus room charge plus some utterly spurious Mipim ­surcharge that descends on the whole of Cannes during Mipim week. So I request a large pot of strong coffee, no doubt using the wrong word for ‘pot’ to room service, who sound bemused.

This meeting with the lawyer is a legal blind date and I have been forced to look at the website to see if I can find out what the lawyer looks like.

I discover that the lawyer is female not male (why did I assume otherwise?) and has a name that is partly Thai (I believe) and partly Czech, neither of which I know how to pronounce. Good start. We are having one of those Mipim ­meetings to discuss ‘mutual referral opportunities’ and I am just hoping that the other lawyer will be gentle with us as we ease ourselves into the day.

Meanwhile, my overpriced and lukewarm cruche has arrived and I need to visit www.pronouncenames. com. Really.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Iain Thomas

Yesterday – ‘Mipim Wednesday’ – was the day on which the serious business was done, and on another chilly morning one could feel a sense of purpose in the air.

Views and opinions expressed and overheard over dinners the previous evening were being recycled over coffee and croissants, cards and brochures were passing hands, notes were being ­studiously taken and business opportunities ­discussed.

This was the day on which brows were furrowed and the expense of the trip was justified. The news of the SFO swoop on the offices of the Tchenguiz brothers broke shortly before lunchtime and it was interesting to see the ­reaction among Mipimites. It is not an exaggeration to say that the news of the arrests, while featuring in the day’s conversations, did not dominate them. Most people here will at some time have had dealings with the ­brothers, such was their impact and influence on

the market. But few were ­openly expressing opinions on the rights, wrongs or likely outcome of the day’s events – although the ­identity of the seven unnamed arrests was the subject of some speculation.

Heroes and villains come and go. I remember standing in front of a TV screen at Expo Real in October 2008 watching the horrors of the banking crisis unfold before our eyes. That was life-changing. That defined the abrupt end of an era. An era in which the Tchenguiz brothers (and others) made their fortunes.

But the real estate market is moving on, is reinventing itself again and is dependent on the basics of ­simplicity and transparency to lay the foundations for the next era of prosperity. The real estate world looks ­forward, not back. And that was Mipim Wednesday. Veni, vidi, vici…

Friday 11 March 2011

Iain Thomas

In the words of Magnus Magnusson… I’ve started so I’ll finish.

Today was a test of ­stamina. Kicking off with a 9am breakfast meeting and ending with drinks aboard a client’s boat well after ­midnight following a sumptuous meal at the Moulin de Mougins, 16 hours of solid networking has finally taken its toll on Team LG.

Finance head Nick Turner’s white sequined disco creation with integral chest wig remains untouched in its suit carrier, eschewed in favour of a couple of ­Rennies and some comfy jimjams. Shapes remain unthrown. The distant sound of throbbing dance beats is drowned out by the gentle sound of snoring.

Nick and I worked out that we have a combined 34 Mipims between us, which I guess primarily qualifies us as old farts, but which also gives us a good sense of perspective on how moods and sentiments have fluctuated over the past 17 years.

The overriding impression left with us this year was one of a still embattled, somewhat punch-drunk sector desperately seeking positives from a set of economic circumstances that are screaming ‘double dip’ at us but which we are manfully trying to keep at bay.

As ever the Brits are ­leading the way in the stiff-upper-lip stakes and those who are making the trip back to the UK today and tomorrow will be assiduous in their follow-up of leads and opportunities.

And what of the lawyers? What’s in it for them? Is Mipim just a four-day, ­gratuitous junket? All good questions and here are a few answers:

1. Mipim is the biggest real estate conference in the world, and therefore the biggest networking opportunity. If you are serious about real estate business development, you ought to be here.

2. Pretty much all of the UK (and indeed global) property industry’s main players have representation here. Which means that your clients are probably here. If you are not schmoozing them, someone else will be.

3. Mipim acts as a ­barometer for the real estate industry – where else can you meet and mix with ­representatives from all of the component sectors over such a short period and in such a small area? You can meet more people over the four days at Mipim than you would in four months in the office.

4. Mipim has internal ­benefits too. Spending four days eating, drinking and living with your colleagues is a great way to get to know them – especially if like

me you are still the relative new boy.

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Now learn that by heart and keep repeating it as you hand in your expenses claims.