We bring you tales of strange transformations this week as the industry tries alchemy, women turn into angels, rich people lose vast sums of money and Building’s front cover is vandalised by a reader
From bad to verse
Anyone annoyed by references to green shoots in the national press may find a kindred spirit in the latest quarterly report by housing analyst Building Value. Despite all the talk of April sunshine and good cheer, which sent housebuilders stocks up 43% last month, author Tony Williams chose Dylan Thomas to provide the foreword for the piece. He tempers the market exuberance with Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard’s line from Under Milk Wood … “before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes”. You know things are bad if you’re having to quote a man who drank himself to death at the age of 39 – one wonders who Williams will use as inspiration next quarter. Leonard Cohen?
Now where did I put that £50,000?
Could Brian Gillies be the most optimistic man in the UK? In the same week that the chancellor announced that the economy was in its worst state for several generations, the Scots businessman chose to launch a commercial property fund. Gillies may be starting small – he is trying to raise a trifling £30m – but investors still need to stump up at least £50,000. Gillies’ company is named Alchemist. Given that anyone with that much cash is stuffing it into their mattress, I only hope he doesn’t end up with fools’ gold.
The industry will have been indulging in plenty of schadenfreude this week thanks to the publication of the Sunday Times Rich List 2009. Some of construction’s biggest names have been diminished by the recession. Worst off is poor old Sir Anthony Bamford, the JCB owner, whose family’s wealth plummeted £1bn in the past year. Other big losers include Keith Miller, down £550m, and Ray O’Rourke, down £200m. Good news, though, for the Candy brothers, whose wealth was, at £330m, more than £200m higher. The brothers’ firm celebrated by taking out a double-page ad in the Rich List supplement for its One Hyde Park scheme. Though judging by the falling value of almost everyone else’s assets, you wonder who in Britain has the readies to buy a £100m apartment …
My colleague reports back from the Cityscape Abu Dhabi exhibition on how the Sheikh deals with the old problem of “conference foot” – that is, the fact that you tend to stand up all day at these events and end up with extremely sore tootsies. At Cityscape, Sheikh Mohammed suffered no such indignity. Instead, he was carted around the giant exhibition by golf buggy. It was strangely disappointing, though, to hear that, in contrast to most vehicles favoured by the UAE royals, it didn’t have blacked-out windows.
The ice girls
Women have really come a long way since the sexist seventies and eighties, but you wouldn’t know it from a press release from the “Ice Angels”, promoting what they call “Chillout Friday”. This, it seems, is intended to “liven up the office environment”. So what is it? Er, dolly birds handing out ice creams, it seems. “Angels can be dressed and styled to match any corporate colours and style,” apparently. I don’t think that’s quite what they mean by Women in Property, is it?