BIRLEY CAPS NUMBERS AT HIS DELAYED £20M CLUB

THE DEVELOPMENT of 5 Hertford Street is progressing “more or less” on track.

That’s more or less as in originally scheduled for last November, before being pushed back to this month and now – final answer – March.

“Except that’s Easter,” says a spokesman for Robin Birley, the leisure entrepreneur developing the £20m Shepherd Market members club with the billionaire Reuben brothers. “So it may be April.”

No rush. After all, the building works to completely refashion the dilapidated townhouses into a dinner and dancing venue to rival Annabel’s – the home from home for property tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz that Richard Caring bought from Birley’s father Mark Birley in 2007 – have been 18 months in the making.

Even when 5 Hertford Street does eventually emerge from the scaffolding, the different areas – the restaurant, bar, cigar lounge, private rooms and roof terrace – will open “in stages”, with initial membership capped at 1,500.

That includes the 500 who have already paid “substantial amounts” to become founding members, limiting the options somewhat for would-be City joiners. “Robin Birley is concerned not to have too many members,” says the club. “We don’t want it to be rammed from the start.”

RANGERS’ PLUS POINTS
THE SKY’S the limit for Rangers FC, after the Glaswegian club yesterday unveiled its ambitions to “maximise the Rangers brand in overseas markets”. A new London office has been opened to lead this bold strategy, led by Misha Sher of Soccerex, who starts next week.

But is this really the time? On 9 January, the Plus exchange suspended Rangers Football Club Plc from trading after it failed to file its accounts for the year to 30 June 2011 by the deadline of 31 December.

Meanwhile, a Plus investigation is ongoing into why Rangers majority shareholder Craig Whyte neglected to point out, when he was appointed to the board on 6 May 2011, exactly why he was disqualified from acting as a director for seven years in 2000.

Over to Rangers, which says it is considering delisting from the Plus market on 6 May 2012 anyway. “Since becoming chairman I have always questioned what is really being achieved with a public listing,” shrugs Whyte.

BUSMAN’S HOLIDAY
IS THE Competition Commission overstretched? The Capitalist sees the watchdog is advertising for inquiry directors to provide chairman Roger Witcomb with “sound, timely advice”. “We offer a fascinating variety of work,” entices the CC.

An interesting way to describe the investigation into local bus services given as an example in the ad – but with a “generous leave allowance” and civil service-guaranteed pension, who’s quibbling?

LEAVE OF ABSENCE
SO FAREWELL then Jeff Morton, head of investment for the BlackRock UK property fund, who has left the building with immediate effect. “Now is an appropriate time for me to move on and meet new challenges elsewhere,” said Morton.

Precisely why right now is so “appropriate”, however, remains a mystery – BlackRock policy is “not to talk about personal departures in that level of detail”. “Jeff is no longer at BlackRock,” blocked the investment giant.

HEDGE FUNDS
THE HEDGE fund charity 100 Women in Hedge Funds has raised more than $25m globally. And this year, the target is education, as the body chooses schools initiative SkillForce for its third year with the Duke of Cambridge as patron.

Top of the many fundraising events, says Blackstone Group’s Kristen Eshak Weldon, chair of the London board of 100 Women in Hedge Funds, is the annual London gala in the autumn, which last year raised £675,000 for the Child Bereavement Charity.