Just a single glance at the overstuffed diary makes me feel a little anxious. I work out that this is my 19th MIPIM, and that we were in another century when I first started my annual pilgrimage to the Croisette.
Things were very different back then in 1996, when my target market was out in force and you couldn’t move for bankers.
Back then for me it was all about real estate finance, though we called it property finance then and many a long lunch was spent on the beach, widening my network and wearing my drinking legs.You could have been forgiven for thinking that it was a UK property conference then and most of it could be found packing the Martinez after midnight.
It’s much more sober now and another glance at that diary shows me that I’m still befriending the bankers, with meeting after meeting cramming the day. I have, traditionally left long gaps between events, giving myself driftabout time and if I’m honest, a chance to hot foot it to the Rue D’Antibes for a little r’n’r in the form of retail therapy, but not this year.
And the bankers these days are not entirely dissimilar to the ones we used to play with in the late 90s. For a while, the specialist lenders were few and far between, the events of 2007-8 throwing a nuclear bomb into the industry. But it has regrouped, even if it’s more fragmented these days and the old timers are wearing new clothes.
And lawyers are still coming to MIPIM though few have their own stand these days. I was reminded of the stand I organised back in 1998. I took two trainees out to help man it. One of them was a chap called Richard Williamson. I have a photo of him, prostrate, on the floor of the stand, somewhat the worse for wear after a night on the tiles with a bevy of Irish bankers. Richard knew how to do MIPIM and did it large. He died this year, tragically early. MIPIM won’t quite be the same without his larger-than-life presence and he’ll be greatly missed. I shall be toasting his memory at every cocktail party I attend. He’d have wanted it that way.