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Property chiefs caught up in Presidents Club scandal

The dorchester hotel in london mayfair, england united kingdom (4579989922)
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Well-known faces from the property world were among those attending the Presidents Club Charity Dinner at which hostesses were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned according to a Financial Times investigation 

According to the report, 151 of 300 guests at the event held at Park Lane’s Dorchester hotel were guests of property companies.

Robert Soning, co-founder of developer Londonewcastle, is understood to have hosted one of the tables at the event and The Times today quoted him as describing the ensuing media furore as a ‘non-event’.

Ian Hawksworth, chief executive of Capital & Counties, was also reportedly at the Presidents Club event.

Tony Gibbon, a partner at GM Real Estate, confirmed that he attended but declined to make a comment to the paper.

There is no suggestion that any of the names above were involved in any inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation (BPF), told the AJ that the behaviour reported by the FT was ’shocking’ and ‘unacceptable’.

‘The first time I became aware of this event was when I read these reports and I was surprised and appalled by them,’ she said. ‘I’m not denying that there were a number of property people attending and there has been a long-standing desire in the industry to raise money for charity. Now clearly at this event the way in which things took place was totally unacceptable.

‘This is a wake-up call that these behaviours still exist. We must do everything we can to make sure they don’t happen in our industry and under our watch.’

The BPF last year launched a drive to make the property sector more diverse and inclusive.

Neal Hudson, a residential property analyst, told the FT: ‘The industry is living in the past and needs to bring its attitudes up to date.

‘From talking to women in the industry there is definitely an awful lot of disgraceful behaviour going on.’

On Twitter, Estates Gazette journalist David Hatcher tweeted that, a few years ago, he had gone to a drinks event with one of the attendees at the dinner.

‘Waitresses were all dressed in stripper gear,’ he said. ‘It was totally bizarre. Will never forget asking one who looked upset if she was OK. She just broke down in tears. I’ll never forget it.’

Despite widespread condemnation of the events at the Presidents Club dinner, one longstanding attendee told the FT that it was ’a boys’ night out’ and compared it to ‘a rugby club dinner’.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • In my youth - so a long time ago - I remember the eponymous leader of a well known interior design firm procuring prostitutes for potential property clients and their agents. It was not especially surprising at the time and my outrage was pretty much met with indifference.

    Have things moved on? Certainly there is more outrage today so these things are not so obvious but I'm not convinced that behaviours in certain circles have really changed that much.

    That said, the younger generation of men seem to be more attuned to separating work from sex so there is hope.

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  • Apparently MIPIM is much more overtly for partying, and allegedly parties on yachts with prostitutes mingling.
    When might the RIBA stop funding visits to MIPIM?

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  • This sort of 'Wizard Hunt' isn't helpful David.

    I attended MIPIM last year and saw nothing of this type of behaviour, on or off yachts.

    Warning bells should be going off when events are so disproportionately male and behind closed doors. And I will be encouraged when male as well as female whistleblowers come forward. I dont believe the sector is any worse than other sectors I know; telecoms, IT engineering..the list continues.

    RIBA should be encouraged in its efforts for inclusivity and at MIPIM where it is important it represents opportunities for inward investment and development in the UK, to attendees from around the World.

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