MIPIM 2010 Blog: Tuesday, 16th March

Hordes of real estate lawyers are in Cannes this week for MIPIM, but what are they really getting up to? Find out in our MIPIM blog all week. Today: Neil Sagoo of Maples Teesdale and Tim Webb of Greenberg Traurig Maher

Neil Sagoo
Neil Sagoo

17.30: Neil Sagoo, Partner Maples Teesdale

This is my first time to MIPIM but others in my group are into their tenth year. Their impression is that already the annual property fest in Cannes seems quieter from the British end this year. So we’ll see as the week progresses whether overall numbers hold up with increased numbers from continental Europe.

Having told everyone in the office that I’d be “working hard” this week I now fear I might struggle to make good on the promise.  I sense from the atmosphere on the flight to Nice and the good coffee, good food, good company, sun, sea and sand awaiting me that MIPIM is going to be a fun way of doing business.

It was good to bump into Stephen Malley, a former colleague from the Reynolds Porter Chamberlain at Heathrow.  I’m hoping our paths will cross again in the next few days.

Tim Webb
Tim Webb

14.30: Tim Webb, Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig Maher

Last year my team and I ventured to MIPIM by train. It felt sustainable. It felt good. We saluted our goodness. That’s how good we felt about being good.

5 hrs into our 9-hour journey – tired, hungry and restless, with laptop dysfunctional – being “good” didn’t feel so good. Doubts kicked in. We had anticipated a 9-hour festival of fun on the train with like-minded MIPIM folk. Bonding and making new contacts. Exchanging business cards with promises of deal-doing on the Croisette.

Not a bit of it. No MIPIM folk actually. Just us.

No food or drink on the train was also vaguely problematic. I volunteered to do a mad dash across platforms for team baguettes, a colleague, foot in the cabin door, resolutely refusing to let the train leave the platform.

Baguettes have never tasted so good.

We arrived… eventually.

That was Eversheds. Fast-forward 12 months. Greenberg Traurig Maher.  I just want to get to MIPIM. I therefore write this blog as I settle into the 9.55 pre strike BA flight BA346 to Nice. I will arrive in time for lunch with contacts on the Croisette. I hear it’s a sunny 16C. Nice.

I have exchanged conversations in the departure lounge with clients, met and discussed arrangements with my co-host for Wednesday’s lunch andrefreshed my acquaintance with a contact who has recently moved to a substantial US investment house. So far so good. Good coffee too.

I spotted an Eversheds banking attorney at Heathrow. Like his style. Rebel.

I believe the balance of the team are reliving last year’s train adventure.

I wish them “bon voyage”.  And, old Eversheds friends, drinks on me when you arrive.

My UK team at MIPIM is two. Justin Hamer and me, plus a colleague from Amsterdam. I believe DLA UK’s team to be a similar number with a good overseas showing. Some may be bucking this trend, but small appears to be the new big. Pavilions on the Croisette replaced by focused networking.  1-2-1 or small groups.

I know from speaking to my peers like David Taylor at DLA and Michael Stancombe at Lovells, that those of us deeply embedded in the fabric of the market, have invested most heavily these last couple of years in networking our clients and contacts with each other. Building a foundation of mutual support and trust.

And so it will continue this MIPIM.

My aim has been to secure and build relationships that reflect the new world order. To partner with dynamic vibrant businesses with clearly defined game plans and a good management platform. Our clients’ successes will ultimately be ours.

I learnt at Harvard that a knee jerk response to difficult trading conditions is to revert to type; bunker down and get on with doing what you know best – regardless. I take a different view. Change is good. Embrace it.

Invest. Take risks. Don’t be mercenary, but follow the money.

This week, a lot of it is in Cannes. Bonne chance!

10.30: Tim Webb, Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig Maher

Against the backdrop of the worst real estate market in living memory, in the region of 17,000 real estate great and good (and the not so great and good) will be swarming in Cannes this week. A substantial minority of these will be lawyers.

How the locals must rejoice; and no irony intended here, for surely they will. Despite constrained marketing budgets and the transactional market playing hide and seek, we Real Estate lawyers will be joining our clients, targets and fellow professionals to dance the MIPIM dance. And I bet, for the majority, the actual meaning of “MIPIM” is lost in the mists of time.

To those in charge of BD budgets, the mere mention of MIPIM induces heightened anxiety. Whilst we in Real Estate may genuinely believe that we have delivered to them an eloquent and cogent business case for our teams to attend MIPIM (plus favourite marketing support), these holders of the purse strings will merely hear the sound of champagne corks flying, see gleaming yachts gently bobbing on iridescent waters and taste the cost of gourmet dining in world class restaurants in Mougin. And so I approached my Chairman, Paul Maher, to have just such a discussion.

You see, having moved from Eversheds in October 2009 to head up Greenberg Traurig Maher’s Real Estate group in London, I couldn’t not go to MIPIM. I had to be there.

How Paul’s eyes rolled when I put my MIPIM proposal to him. Paul is a veteran MIPIM cynic. Of course I had rehearsed .. “Paul, I need to be visible in the market, make sure people know where I am, protect my client relationships, build new contacts, win work ….” and so on. I pressed on, building my case. He relaxed. I grew confident.  And then I felt the ground shift as a wry smile touched his eyes, and he said “Tim, if you think it is the right thing for you to do, i won’t stop you, you should go”. Now, for those of you who know Paul, i quickly realised that behind these inocuous yet encouraging words of guidance, lay a challenge of humongous proportions. I left our meeting under no illusion, that if i went to MIPIM, I would need to deliver – and in spades.

Game over ? Heck no. I will be there, arriving today. I will be with my pal Justin Hamer who heads our Tax Group. I could never resist a challenge. My real estate chums in the market tell me that this challenge is near universal. For most of us, even more so than last year, management is sceptical and challenging towards MIPIM: “Shrink the team, get organized and show us a return”. But so it should always be.

I have no issue with accountability, and what is interesting is that being with an American law firm, I see a markedly different approach to MIPIM . The link between investment and outputs – effectively responsibility and accountability – is more immediate, more visceral. I like that.

I guess the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.