Leaked plans to host Mipim UK at five-star Gleneagles resort met with disbelief by industry insiders. Christine Murray reports
For those desperate to regenerate the property industry’s reputation, citing its lack of diversity and inclusion, a leaked email from Mipim UK organiser Reed Midem was met with disbelief.
Seeking feedback on a new format for the event, a spin-off from the original four-day property trade fair in Cannes, the email describes a “retreat” at the five-star Gleneagles resort in Scotland, where new deals will be discussed over “golf, cycling, horse-riding, shooting etc.”
The plans have been slammed by industry figures as “elitist” and “regressive”.
“This is a revolting ploy from Mipim UK to entice people into an elitist club setting and I sincerely hope that everyone invited will throw it straight in the bin,” said Dinah Bornat, director of ZCD Architects and mayor’s design advocate for the mayor of London.
“Only a power-crazed gammon would possibly say yes to this nonsense and they are precisely the sort of person we don’t want discussing ‘new deals/projects’ for our communities,” Bornat added.
Branding expert Joy Nazzari, founder of dn&co, said, “We are seeing developers of every size pay much more than lip service to the major topics of the day, from the environment to social value, so this approach from Mipim seems pretty far behind the pace.”
Other senior figures in the property industry raised concerns about how Mipim was reinforcing gender barriers and the perception that the real estate industry is indifferent to communities and out of touch.
Jonny Anstead, founding director of Town said, “The image of developers and investors making deals over shooting, golf and drinks on a private estate in Scotland will do little to dispel the image of the real estate industry as an old boys’ network that is out of touch with ordinary people.”
“Whilst we are seeing some real progress being made widening participation, diversity and broadening the discussion around how we create cities that are supportive and accessible for all, events like this reveal we still have a really long way to go,” said Zoë Berman, architect and founder of gender equality group Part W.
“It shows that the causes and impact of an imbalanced and unequal industry are really not being understood,” Berman added.
Questions have also been raised about whether local authorities should be seen attending such an exclusive event at considerable expense. One local authority senior figure told The Developer that they would not be attending Mipim in Cannes this year as they felt it was inappropriate after having made staff cuts.
The email describes the event as limited to 200 maximum guests from “international and local investors to meet with local authorities and developers from the UK to develop relationships with key decision-makers and discuss new deals/projects”.
While the email states that the event would be “closely aligned with the Department for International Trade”, the Department has told The Developer that this is factually incorrect. The DIT are listed on the 2019 Mipim UK Summit website as “event partners”.
A DIT spokesperson said: “The Department rejected this proposal as it is not in line with our departmental values.”
The format is described as two days of “networking (fine dining, drinks, golf, cycling, horse-riding, shooting etc) and content (such as roundtables, panel discussions, presentations, keynotes etc)” at “one of the most prestigious hotels/venues in Europe”.
In a request for feedback, Reed Midem asks: “How much content should there be – how important is it to you? Or do you just want to network and have fun?”
The letter from Reed Midem also states that the proposals are “just ideas at this stage”.
The larger Mipim event in Cannes has faced criticism in the past, in particular following the Presidents Club scandal, for the “inappropriate behaviour” of its male-dominated attendees at the international property trade fair, with reports of prostitution, sexual harassment and discrimination.
There are concerns the Mipim UK proposal, with its emphasis on ‘elitist’ sports such as golf, horse-riding and shooting, will reinforce the perception of the property industry as male-dominated and privileged; a perception many developers are struggling to shake off in order to recruit and retain talent, undertake successful community engagement, seek ESG investment and forge partnerships with local government.
On the proposed content, Nazzari said: “The industry’s boardrooms are alive with creativity to address the huge challenges we are facing. Our flagship conferences should know, and do, better.”
Anstead said: “At a time when the challenges of social inequality, regeneration, inclusiveness, wellbeing and the climate emergency could scarcely be more pressing, the sector should be re-examining the role it plays in society and thinking harder about how this is articulated to the world.”
A statement issued from Mipim said: “The email you mentioned was sent out as part of a process we undertake to test different event ideas. The event concept in your article was one of several under research independently by Mipim. The concept was ruled out several days ago and will not be taken forward.
“We note the correction requested by DIT which you included in your updated article. The DIT response is factually correct. They had rejected the proposal and should not have been referenced in relation to the concept.”