Commercial Property Blog
All posts from: March 2009
Spring has finally sprung, but romance is definitely not in the air. I wasn’t surprised to read this week that the number of couples heading for the divorce courts is expected to reach an all-time high as we sink deeper into recession.
Let’s face it girls – life is miserable enough at the moment without having to put up with some loser. You may as well trouser what you can, and hit the shops!
I am not surprised that top divorce lawyers have never been busier, as warring couples battle to split their assets before falling property values and stock markets completely wipe them out. However, what I find more interesting are the cases trying to renegotiate past settlements agreed in happier times.
I have many female friends in the legal profession who hear through their own gossip circles that several high-profile men of property are trying to reduce big buck settlements agreed with their ex-wives.
Some want to reduce the amount of maintenance payments to reflect drastic falls in their personal wealth; others want to claw back part of the lump sum from their ex-wife’s clutches. One poor fellow borrowed against the value of his property shares to fund a pay-out and, having seen the market tank, is in a sticky mess.
Times are also hard for us mere mortals. The ex-husband of one of my surveying pals has threatened to suspend maintenance payments all together as the result of redundancy.
But the case my legal chums are all watching at the moment is South African fund manager and property investor Bryan Myerson, who is arguing that the £11m divorce deal he agreed with his ex-wife last year is no longer fair. Following a steep plunge in the value of his fund, she is effectively entitled to 105% of his assets - which seems a trifle unfair.
The former Mrs Myerson is represented by top divorce lawyer Raymond Tooth. Speaking out in the Sunday papers, he advises women at the end of their matrimonial tether to “hang in there” as the value of payout they could secure by waiting two years would almost certainly be better than now.
And for the fellas? “Move now, while your star is low in the sky, and you’ll escape with less.” It is worth noting that the loveable Mr Tooth is twice-divorced himself.
“Ah, yes, divorce ... from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man's genitals through his wallet.”
Don’t you just love rugby? After so many matches, so many minutes of toil, and so many moments of exciting – and sometimes turgid – play, it all came down to just one kick. One drop-goal transformed the frustration of 60 years of failure into one great night of joy. Stringer, O’Gara, kick, flying dodo, whistle, points, Grand Slam.
Job done for the Irish and, with Jones unable to make his penalty kick count, hearts broken for the Welsh.
This result ensures that the 2009 Six Nations goes down in history as something special. I’m delighted for Declan Kidney and his side. Frankly, it was about time this generation delivered. But take nothing away from the men in green. They gave everything and they got over the line. They got home.
Aside from this outstanding achievement, you would have to say that this year’s Championship was otherwise light on quality. I remember just three games of any significant value in terms of entertainment or standard. The up and down French had a hand in two of them (versus Wales and versus Ireland) and, of course, the Wales versus Ireland games sits on the top of the pile.
I’m not here to cast judgement, merely to express an opinion, but I think Scotland and Italy will feel this campaign has left them no further forward. Johnno’s England get a B+. Some very average play mixed with moments of genuine promise.
Looking at England more closely, I think the first half at Twickenham last Saturday was top drawer. Quick out of the blocks, well executed moves, direct and intelligent play – all positive. Where we lost our way, and I think a symptom of this team’s as yet un-honed maturity – was in taking our foot off the gas and letting Scotland back into it. We invited pressure onto ourselves when a more hard-edged team would have kept the door firmly shut. Scotland had no penetration.
They never looked like scoring a try through any deliberately planned or creative game play. England’s ill discipline, however, crept back in and so, in turn, did Scotland. I was pleased to see the lads respond and open up some clear water again but why let a problem happen when you can avoid it?
Looking forward, I think England now have a number of ticks in the boxes marked ‘must do better’ after last year’s Autumn internationals. Brian Smith has clearly had an impact in the backs and there’s good stuff to build on. I think physicality and fitness will be big issues and we have to move up another level to equip ourselves to contend with the best in the world, namely the Southern Hemisphere sides.
But there’s hope here with this England side. There’s promise where before – certainly against Ireland and Italy – there was close to none.
No one will have forgotten that this is a Lions summer either. Having mentioned fitness and physicality, you need look no further than the current World Champions for the best in the business.
I’m really excited about the prospect of the tour but, some 14 years into the professional game, you have to question how a scratch side will shape up against a well-drilled bunch of world-beaters? The opening 20 minutes of the First Test are going to be huge. Whether it’s O’Connell or O’Driscoll that leads the side out – surely it will be either – it will be totally fascinating.
Returning to where we started in Cardiff though, I just wonder what might have been for Wales had Lee Byrne stayed on? The ELVs have made kicking, kick returning and kick defence an integral part of today’s game and I think Byrne’s departure opened the door for the Irish.
That and Gatland’s pre-match comments, of course, which made sure Ireland were about as fired up and ferocious as it’s possible to be. You could hear the front rows getting stuck in from my living room!
Let’s not take the gloss off a great Irish performance though and a wonderful achievement. All credit to the players whom many had said would choke. You did it, well done, the story’s yours to tell.
Lastly, a huge thanks to all of you that have read, commented on and contributed to my blog. It’s been great fun to do and I hope you have enjoyed it. The stats aren’t half bad either (14 games called from 15!) – nobody’s perfect! Enjoy the summer and enjoy the Lions tour.
It’s quite remarkable that the one topic in my MIPIM blog that has attracted by far the most concerned attention is - believe it or not - my comments on the weather in Cannes on Friday the last day of the conference which only goes to show that I clearly wasn’t cut out to be a Michael Fish!
I’m still getting interesting feedback on MIPIM.
One client mentioned that despite spending only £100k (a quarter of their last year’s MIPIM expenditure) they came away with far more potential deals this year than last - which proves the point that you can do more for less in the current climate.
On the back of this they have already sealed an advantageous deal for their boat at MIPIM 2010. Interestingly they noted that this year the lawyers in particular adopted a more constructive approach.
Instead of coming onto the boat asking for work they came with prospective introductions in how to create business. I’m all for a more creative approach and it goes to show that this recession is certainly encouraging our more entrepreneurial skills.
Back in the office the news on my return was that my partner and long-time colleague Philip Freedman CBE has been appointed an honorary QC for services to property law. This in itself is unusual - I believe (and I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong!) that this is the first such award since Trevor Aldridge’s appointment in 1992. It is also particularly poignant for the Firm as our late founder, Lord Mishcon was the first ever practicing solicitor to be made an honorary QC.
I am pleased to say that we are beginning to see some increased transactional activity across the board but this is particularly evident in high end central London residential – the favourable currency play for overseas investors and reports in the press that London has been displaced by Monaco as the most expensive place in the world to buy residential property are no doubt fuelling this.
One of the more controversial issues of the moment is the pre-pack administration.
Having been involved in countless discussions on the pros and cons of the much maligned ‘pre-pack’ we have organised a panel to debate the issues in front of an invited property audience. With a panel including Lord Oakeshott, Francis Salway, Deloitte’s Lee Manning and chaired by Giles Barrie, I think we are in for a very lively and informative debate.
Finally, please spare a thought for all the charities struggling to raise money for worthwhile causes against a backdrop of the worst economic downturn for years. There are a number of charitable events which have over the last few years become fixtures in the property industry calendar and which are suffering as a result of slashed marketing budgets and decimated incomes.
As with many things these days we may require a slightly different approach – even if budgets do not stretch to hosting a table at events this year, most companies would be prepared to share a table and engage in some valuable corporate speed dating whilst supporting a good cause.
Whatever the English, Scots, French or Italians may think, this weekend is all about Ireland. It seems staggering that a nation famous for producing so many great players has only one Grand Slam to its name.
Even Scotland have three! Whether Cardiff will provide the dream come true or the nightmare re-enacted, 30 men and what’s in their heads when the whistle blows for the 5.30pm kick off will decide. Make no mistake, this game will be played in the mind just as much as on the turf.
For me, this game has everything. Just look at the mouth-watering match ups where the importance of winning personal battles means everything to the chances of team success.
Martin Williams against David Wallace, Paul O’Connell against Alun Wyn-Jones, and Andy Powell against Jamie Heaslip – three prime up-front contests to set the pulse racing. It’s going to be brutal!
For whichever pack does deliver the ball, the all important question will be what can the backs do with it? I think it’s going to be tight. Let’s get this out front now – I’m calling an Ireland win by 3-6 points. Why? Because I think Ireland – and many of the players taking the field – will be driven on by the taste of defeat and the ‘so near but yet so far’ Grand Slam attempt of 2007.
Resentment burns, I can tell you. If you have had half a hand on the big prize only to let it slip, you don’t want to do that again. That will drive them on.
I also think Wales will rue the selections Gatland made in Rome. What you need when things get tight is a well-oiled machine and players who know one another standing shoulder to shoulder. The disruption of so many changes in the last fortnight will, I fear for Wales, be their undoing. Ireland look like they are going into the match with three changes but I’m less worrried about that. They have a stronger cohesion.
Wales have lost what rhythm they had and, with the Irish sure to play like men possessed, I’m expecting it to be O’Driscoll’s day.
Scrapping in the smaller pond will be England and Scotland, and boy what a scrap I think it will be!
The Calcutta Cup has always stirred emotions but with Borthwick stoking it some more this week and the Scots well up for bursting the England bubble from the over-egged victory against the French, this one will be red hot.
Whether Toby Flood starts will make a difference. Not that I would have expected to say it but he was the lynchpin at Twickenham last Sunday. Good decision-making, decent pace, effective connecting play from 10 – all of the things that Andy Goode struggles to show at the highest level. If he is fit – and we hear the physios are working their magic – I expect England to click and push on to a win by between 6-9 points. If he’s out, and if the Scots can actually turn ball into pressure and then points, we are going to be in for a long and nail-biting afternoon.
I think Johnno will be doing his utmost to get the lads focused this week. Getting fired up is the easy part. The strategic thinking and intelligent game play, that’s the trickier bit when you’ve got some testosterone-charged Tartans in your face for 80 minutes. Scotland’s fight can never be under-estimated and they have earned respect. We must give them that – and then play them off the park!
Over in Rome, the question will be who booked the French travel arrangements? If it was the same chap who looked after them last weekend, the Italians will be loving it. But surely lightning can’t strike twice? The French can’t not show up again, can they?
I think, even with the latest Lievremont shuffle, we should be looking at a French side burning to prove that last weekend was a slip up. I think the French will take the game by 10-12 points.
An interesting rumour doing the rounds is what’s happening with Nick Mallet? Suggestions are that the players have lost confidence and are mooting change. All typically Roman cloak and dagger stuff. If the Azzurri can’t win, it could be curtains for the South African so he’s certainly looking for a top performance. He wouldn’t be the first to go down in games in Rome but let’s hope that it doesn’t get ugly with any baying for blood.
I think the French yo-yo is on the way back up after it bottomed out at Twickenham. For sure, it will be a tough old game but I’m backing the visitors for this one.
So, what do you think? Will 2009 be written into the Irish record books alongside 1948? Actually, I hope so. But if it is, let’s hope the pubs have re-stocked since Paddy’s Day otherwise there could be trouble!
Mark’s predictions for the final showdown:
Ireland to beat Wales by 3-6 points
England to beat Scotland by 6-9 points
France to beat Italy by 10-12 points
Mark Rigby is Executive Chairman of London Wasps and Director of Open Property & Investments.
He is a former Chief Executive of Lambert Smith Hampton as well as a former captain of London Wasps. He was also capped for England Saxons.
Better? Yes. Brilliant, no.
“C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre.” Absolutely. What we saw at Twickenham on Sunday was a breath of fresh air.
It was effective, well-executed and impactful rugby.
What it wasn’t was justification for a lap of honour or for anyone to forget that England currently ‘enjoy’ their lowest ever world ranking.
Now I’m no expert in military tactics but what I do know is that winning wars is about more than winning battles.
We beat the French on Sunday partly because we were good and, in no small measure, because they were dreadful for 50 minutes.
Will Scotland afford us such luxury? Certainly not. That lot know just a thing or two about waging wars with the English!
OK, so let’s get this all in perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance on Sunday. It was a return to running rugby and thinking tactics. We engaged brain as well as brawn up front and, by doing that, we created opportunities. Those opportunities were converted this time – and that’s a key difference. Witness the Flutey try for one where Cueto off-loaded as Tait had been unable to do. Better thinking, better vision, better result.
We also applied consistent pressure throughout the first half. That, for me, is how you win games and England, and Tom Croft in particular, were excellent at throttling French ball, winning turnovers and winning penalties. Solid kicking and clear, direct running did the rest. Pace and invention – two words you wouldn’t have seen linked with an England performance in a long time – were back and, together with the Sunday sunshine, spirits were lifted. But come on guys. If that’s what you think merits a trundle around Twickers to milk the applause then think again. You’ve just given Scotland the perfect pre-match talk – how keen will they be to burst this English bubble now!
Lest you start thinking I belong with Arthur Smith and Will Self on that Grumpy Old Men show, hold your horses. England’s record in the last eight games shows wins only against Samoa, Italy and a French team who didn’t get off the bus. Personally, I’m looking for more than that and, from a nation with such high numbers of players to draw upon, you would have to say England are underperforming. I’d be glad to be proved wrong, however, with another solid, successful and genuinely progressive performance against the Scots, just as I was when calling only a narrow victory for England in the France game (and I don't remember anyone else calling a whacking England victory either!).
Looking to Murrayfield and to Rome, I’ll have to confess that the view was a little poor from where I was pitch-side at Gloucester cheering the Wasps boys to what was ultimately a very narrow defeat against the league leaders. From what I saw, it was nearly ‘whoops, Mr Gatland’ as Warren’s pick and mix came mighty close to coming unstuck. Maybe he’ll argue that the test match experience will help build a stronger squad for the future, and maybe he’ll be right, but that was close to arrogance undone. Italy are a tough proposition at home and a win would not have been out of balance with the run of the game.
North of the border, the old adage of ‘you have to make your possession count’ came back to haunt the hosts. Scotland certainly did pretty well in most departments. They competed, they disrupted, they did everything you expect of a Scotland side. But what they didn’t do was to take their chances. Ireland did, O’Gara put the right pair of boots on this week, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now it’s all about the Cardiff conundrum. Stick it in the mixer and the stats boys will tell you all of the permutations. 13 points or more for this, 12 points or less for that. For O’Driscoll and the men in green though it’s simple. Just win.
Mark will be providing his predictions and assessments for this Saturday’s showdown games on Friday.
'You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.' Wise words indeed. Take a look at the team selections for this weekend’s games and the over-riding theme is chop and change.
England change three, Ireland four, and Wales a whopping ten. There are players coming in, players going out and players changing position. It’s sh*t or bust time now for the coaches – and I sense some panic creeping in.
Whose gamble is going to pay off? That’s the killer question.
Lievremont, to my mind, is making the strangest call. When you’ve just played your best game of the tournament and delivered a superb result against a Grand Slam defending and Grand Slam chasing Wales, what’s going through your head to want to shake it all up? Chabal at flanker is just about understandable – he has form in that department and a strong record against England.
But to put Trinh-Duc at fly-half? That’s an odd one. Nor do I get the other changes in the pack. Maybe Lievremont is a wise exponent of Monte Carlo’s famous tables and knows things I don’t but, for my money, he’s off the mark.
When I was packing down in the Wasps ‘back row club’ there was something special about knowing the likes of Dean Ryan and 'Buster' White would be there alongside.
Familiarity bred strength. Game time together got you out of scrapes and gave you an understanding and an edge. That’s why I’m unsure about the French strategy – and let’s hope they do fold rather than flourish on the day!
I’m delighted to see Wasps man Simon Shaw back in the England line up (for his sake if not for Wasps who have a tough trip to Gloucester this weekend). I think he’ll add muscle and nous, and that’s always important against French forwards.
It’s ironic going into a game with the French that we’re the ones with the disciplinary problems. You could usually rely on nine to twelve points a game in the 80s and 90s by roughing the French pack and waiting for them to fall foul of the ref as they sought to ‘get their retaliation in’. Whistle, penalty, points – it was your classic three card trick.
Now, it’s all about England and our poor disciplinary record. Will we park it and develop? I certainly hope so. Lawrence was spot on with his piece in last weekend’s Sunday Times about how Clive gave him a tape of dodgy penalties and told him to sort it out. The players have to think and to act – the responsibily rests with them.
So the call then? Well, I’m going with the heart this weekend. England to nick it by less than five points. Time for Twickenham to have something to shout about.
The Irish know a thing or two about punting – if you’ll forgive the stereotype – and those with any money left from Cheltenham might be attracted by a wager at Croke Park. I see it as a clear Irish banker though so I doubt they’ll be much value there.
Ireland have too much talent and also too much to play for. You can bet your bottom dollar they want to be going to the Millennium with the Championship up for grabs. The biggest danger they face is thinking about that match and not getting on with the business of winning against Scotland.
But it’s Ireland by 10-12 points for me. O’Gara can’t kick as badly again so I’m expecting him to create the platform and for Ireland to ease away over the eighty minutes.
In Rome, Warren Gatland has certainly re-shuffled his deck. What a luxury to have but, as any student of the Classics will tell you, luxury and Rome can be dangerous bed fellows. It doesn’t take much for the one to undermine the other.
That said, Wales remain the class act of the tournament and, even with such significant changes, I can’t see them letting Italy get one over on them. Phillips at scrum half will be strong and set the tempo with off-loading options inside and outside that will be too good for the home team. Does Nick Mallett have a joker in his pack (literally!) to threaten an upset? I think not. It’s Wales by 12-15 points for me.
So, who would be a coach then and what price a crystal ball? Tough choices, bold calls, intriguing gambles. Good decision / bad decision, who knows? Where’s Kenny Rogers when you need him?
This weekend’s games:
England versus France
Ireland versus Scotland
Italy versus Wales
There are two choices in Test Match rugby. You either pick a side that you think will win you the game on the day, or you accept that creating a winning team takes time, you plan for the future and you invest in emerging players.
“Let us together build tomorrow today” is Gordon Brown trying to woo America, of course, but the more interesting question is whether you could catch Martin Johnson saying that.
Taking action now to plan for and deliver a stronger future – it all sounds good. But what’s Johnno’s take?
Watching England lose at Croke Park gave me no clue. We never looked like the players on the pitch would win us the game. Nor is there any obvious development taking place that I can see. Rudderless is too strong but I wish I did know what Johnno was doing.
I’m not feeling confident.
I didn’t expect that we would win. In that respect, the opening 10 minutes was a surprise as we played some good stuff, passing out of the tackle, keeping the ball alive and keeping the pressure on. Thereafter, it was only Ireland’s blunt edge that kept us within sight
Frankly, the scoreline flattered us big time. If O’Gara had put his kicking boots on, Ireland would have been out of sight. Lucky for England, unlucky for O’Gara who had looked the shoo-in for the Lions No 10 shirt.
Others have written about discipline so I’m not going to go there except to say if you spend serious time coaching top players on what you want them to do and how you want them to play, of course you fume when they blatantly ignore you and blatantly offend.
It’s dumb, it’s infuriating and it’s costing us games.
The ‘Mystic Mark’ bubble has burst. Lievremont has done for me. The run has come to an end. Still, eight from nine isn’t bad. And what a game! A guy who has only ever kicked one penalty for Les Bleus in his life gets the nod and plays a blinder. A half back pairing that has never run out together just clicks, and your forwards have their best 80 minutes of the tournament – magic stuff. Wales were everyone’s favourites and I think they could have won the game.
It was one of those matches that had it all and I for one am a big supporter of the Friday night scheduling. The Stade de France is a superb stadium at any time but it certainly comes alive for night games and a Friday fixture gets everyone in the mood.
The standout feature for me was the French defence in the last five minutes. Breathtaking and committed, it set the highest defensive standard of the championship so far, and that’s saying something after Joe Worsley and England’s performance in Cardiff.
Can Lievremont do it again? Well, I suspect he’ll shuffle his deck again so watch out. It could go either way at Twickenham next weekend.
Last but not least, Italy and Scotland. Not what you’d call a big draw and frankly, a pretty flat match. The Scots stepped up and went through the motions. The Italians might not have bothered stepping off the plane. I thought they should have done more and I for one was underwhelmed by what should have been more of a contest.
Worst game of the tournament so far – albeit a dead heat with England v Italy! As for next week then? Well the mystery remains. Will England start playing like their todays and their tomorrows depend on it?
I certainly hope so. Brown got 17 standing ovations for his speech in Washington. I’d be happy with one at Twickenham – the crowd rising to acknowledge an England win on 80 minutes!
It's a sad but true fact that the credit crunch has put pay to lavish corporate entertainment. I had the choice of going to Mipim this year, but opted not to. Why?
I have a feeling that the quality of partying on offer will be so thin, I might actually have to get some work done
There will be few pension funds or local authorities brazen enough to hire giant yachts (remember the RREEF one from a few years back which was so big, it had to be moored at sea instead of in the marina?).
The uproar over banking bonuses means that hiring luxury villas for swanky soirees will be the last thing corporate lending teams will want to be seen doing. Given the state of the banking industry, they probably couldn't lend themselves the money to pay for one.
But before I depress you all too much, I must divulge my favourite 'corporate hospitality sport' of better days: Wife spotting.
Receiving an embossed invitation to a party that instructed, in calligraphy, to bring one's partner would always send a shiver of excitement down my spine. Not that I would ever trouble the long-suffering Mr Turner to tag along with me, oh no.
I took my pleasure from meeting the female partners of the assembled property moguls, and guessing whether they were wife number one, two (or increasingly) three.
Wife number ones are typically the same age as their husbands, and thus become rarer as the subject gets older. The first wives I have particularly enjoyed meeting over the years are those in their fifties, who have fearsomely defended the marriage battlefield against invaders.
Typically they have 'helmet hair' and great encrustations of diamond jewellery (often bequeathed in apology for secretarial indiscretions). There is often evidence of 'restoration work' (facelifts and botox are common) and a pronounced sense of ownership of their wrinkling spouses.
Before I am attacked for being disparaging, many of these women know more about the property industry than their husbands do. They have acted as confidantes when big deals are in play, and have socialised with other Property Wives for generations. So I very much enjoy a good gossip with them.
By contrast, I have very little time for second wives
The archetypal second wife has not been chosen for her maternal abilities (as the first wife spawned the heirs), but for her youthfulness, and unflinching consent to being shagged senseless.
Accuse me of being stereotypical if you like, I don't care.
But sustaining a conversation with one of these Barbie dolls is no easy task. I tried making small talk with one at a do held at the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square as we stood in front of a large artwork. 'Nice painting,' she said.
I didn't have the heart to tell her it was The Rape of Europa.
And then there's the third wife. The match is usually much more equal by this stage – third wife is rarely after property man's money, as after two divorces, he hasn't got much left. She likes him for who he is, appears more like a good friend, and has her own career and interests.
I have yet to meet a 'fourth wife' at one of these events, but would love to hear from any readers who have.