Iain Thomas witnesses the ever-changing nature of the real estate sector as he experiences some new culinary delights at Cannes
“So what on earth is a St Pierre?” “It’s a John Dory”, says the waitress at Le Plage Goeland. “Right. And is that anything like a cod or haddock?” say I, mentally running down the list of battered deep fried offerings available at the Downtown Fishbar in Tunbridge Wells? “Er…no.” But it is jolly nice all the same, for those of you who have followed my previous piscatorial musings.
The French love their saints and their fish. So the St Pierre is a John Dory. A Saint Jacques is a scallop. Saint Michael is the brand name of Marks & Spencer. Or at least it used to be. In the same way that every high street would accommodate a Rumbelows or Radio Rentals and every shopping centre would fight for a representation from C&A and its incongruously named Rodeo range of ski attire.
When C&A, which owned three freeholds on Oxford Street alone, decided to discontinue its retail operations in the UK in 2001 it reinvented itself as real estate company Redevco, which is now a major European real estate player, typifying the power of the real estate industry and those involved in it to reinvent themselves and to adapt to changing market conditions and trends. Walking around Cannes yesterday, this adaptability was very much in evidence. One-time loan originators turned servicers, former senior lenders now plying their trades as mezzanine loan providers, investors who now specialise in asset management and turnaround.
As lawyers, the ability to adapt to clients’ needs is therefore key to survival and prosperity. Those who have been able to turn their hands to loan restructuring, advising on enforcement strategies and dealing with different kinds of debt-related issues will find work in what is otherwise a very difficult market for lawyers. The opportunities are out there – they need to be sniffed out, and that is one of the enduring benefits of events like MIPIM. A planned meeting, a chance encounter, a referral from an intermediary or foreign law firm – something will generally stick and the cost of attendance is justified.
Today will be a quiet build-up to this evening’s Lawrence Graham dinner up in the hills of Mougins before we head back to London tomorrow. In the meantime, I have a 1pm appointment with a large turbot, chez Gaston Gastounette. Can’t wait…..
Iain Thomas is a partner at Lawrence Graham