Incredibly, this year is the 30th anniversary of Mipim, the international real estate convention in Cannes. 

Susan Freeman

For those of us who have attended from the start, tactfully described by the organisers as pioneers rather than veterans, it has been a rollercoaster journey!

Skimming through my past Property Week blogs and columns gives a useful snapshot of the real estate sector’s ups and downs. In 1990, just 2,973 delegates from 22 countries attended. The event aspired to be international at a time when the property sector was largely national. This year, 26,000 delegates are expected from 100 countries, with many multinational delegates.

Mipim has always been about networking and keeping a good balance between cementing existing relationships and forging new ones. The ultimate Mipim networking tool proved to be having my portrait painted by talented artist/architect Sandy Morrison to raise money for charity. My doppelgänger travelled down to Cannes and was a useful conversation piece.

My earliest Mipim memory is of Godfrey Bradman’s imposing model of Rosehaugh’s proposed King’s Cross redevelopment on display in the Palais. The development didn’t start until years later and by then the developer was Argent.

Mipim is a useful barometer of the sector’s health

One of the most newsworthy moments came in 2011 when former Property Week editor Giles Barrie appeared on Sky News (in cool shades) reporting from the Tchenguiz yacht on the SFO raid on the business. Peter Rhodes, then head honcho of REED MIDEM UK, called me expressing concern that the Tchenguizes were hosting a boat party but hadn’t registered for Mipim!

Mipim’s mood and attendance figures have ebbed and flowed according to economic and world events. The demise of a number of UK propcos in the early 1990s took its toll. We saw the last of the more extravagant parties in 2008, with 2009 particularly muted following the financial crash, which set the tone for a much more serious, business-focused event.

A notable change has been our embracing of the diversity agenda. Many more women attend and the women’s real estate events have become a regular, well-supported fixture. Hopefully the Croisette’s sea of men in dull grey suits will increasingly be interspersed with more colourful attire. Another big change is the advent of proptech, which now has its own programme and attracts top international proptech talent.

Mipim, Cannes

Source: Shutterstock/Manjik

Mipim’s initial focus on property companies has changed. Cities expert Patricia Brown notes: “Initially, Mipim was about individual corporates, but with the rise of ‘competitive cities’ it has become a showcase for cities and a platform for civic leaders to woo investment and partners.”

Previous London mayors Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson both supported the event. Our ‘yellow-haired mayor’, as his French fans dubbed him, made a huge impact in 2011, bringing unprecedented crowds to the London Stand. In the early days, concern that Frankfurt might become Europe’s financial centre prompted a real effort to promote London. With Brexit looming, that fight needs to continue, but it is notable that London representation is slipping down the league compared with Birmingham and Manchester.

The London mayor may be absent, but the government is supporting Mipim through the Department for International Trade’s excellent events programme, run with the British Property Federation. The London Councils delegation will also be there in force led by Darren Rodwell, charismatic Barking & Dagenham council leader, who says his four years of Mipim attendance have brought £15bn of investment into his borough.

After all these years I still don’t know what Mipim’s initials stand for. I just know it’s good for business and a useful barometer of the health of the global real estate sector.

Susan Freeman is partner at Mishcon de Reya