By Bruce Dear, head of London real estate, Eversheds Sutherland
My head feels like it’s been hit with a bag of concrete lemons. The rest of me feels like a dead rat with flu. Yes, gentle reader, I have been to MIPIM.
MIPIM. Sounds harmless doesn’t it? Like a cuddly sock puppet.
Don’t you believe it. MIPIM is, in fact, the most effective life-shortener known to humankind. Each MIPIM takes ten years off your life. I have been to 15. That means I died in 1867. This morning I believe it.
Let’s do some MIPIM musing. This year MIPIMites applied a simple principle: if you party hard enough, you will forget about political risk. You’d think optimism might be a touch subdued, what with the Brexit bus revving up, the Donald in the Whitehouse and Arsenal out of the title race.
But you’d be wrong (heartbroken though you are about Arsenal). Because not since 2006 (when the Tchenguiz brothers re-invented the word party) have I found market animal spirits so spirited and, well, so animal. People see that politics has gone A1 potty, so they are just getting on with what they can control: their businesses.
And here there is hope. I met inspiring directors from Legal & General intent on solving the UK housing crisis, executives from TFL planning thousands of new homes and a man from France’s biggest property company who thinks Le Pen definitely won’t win. The Côte d’Azur turned the happy mood up to ten by putting on its very best weather show. No one does weather like the Côte can. Skies and seas so beautiful God would have them as his screensaver.
You can always spot the locals. To them, this is winter. I saw one French lady strolling down the Croisette under a sun-blazing blue sky. She was wearing mirror gold sunglasses, a thick jumper and a trench coat. Every bit of her clothes said, “call this warm – you ridiculous Englishman!”
She also had a shopping bag. I mention this unremarkable fact because in it she had a perfectly groomed Pomeranian dog. This proves my theory that cool is 9/10ths geography. In Cannes, a dog in a shopping bag is cool. In Clacton, not so much. My wife will also like this bit because Pomeranians are her favourite dogs. She used to have two before she traded them in for our two sons, James and Andrew. It was a good deal Kath, honest.
Cut to the Eversheds Sutherland dinner at the Carlton. Drinks on the terrace at dusk. The blue sky fading and an extraordinary sea mist rolling over the fairy-lit palm trees. The Carlton is a gorgeous Belle Époque confection. It’s where Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier, and where Peter Sellers found a girl in his soup (1960s comedy – long story). Bill Hughes of L&G, one the best property people of his generation, spoke and gave a clarion call for optimism. We were all as happy as princes and American film stars. Probably happier.
Our two new US colleagues, Victor Haley and Clay Howell, joined us – living proof of the Eversheds Sutherland combination. It was great to have them with us. I think MIPIM was (hopefully a fun) culture shock for them. 27,000 property people mainlining rosé is, admittedly, an unusual experience.
But this is the only place where you can meet the entire European property industry in a one-mile seafront and furkle around with them in an old plastic lager shed called Bar Roma. And that’s why we will all be back next year. By which time, I will be feeling a little better.