HEDGE fund millionaires, business hotshots and celebrities alike flocked in their droves last night to the financial world’s most extravagant charity bash of the year – Arpad Busson’s annual ARK gala dinner.
Busson himself is renowned in equal part for his stewardship of the EIM hedge fund, his phenomenal philanthropic efforts at the helm of the ARK childrens charity and his on-off relationship with Hollywood beauty Uma Thurman – who set wagging tongues to rest when she arrived by his side last night.
Queen Rania of Jordan was at the event as the guest of honour, while other celebrity attendees included models Eva Herzigova and Sophie Dahl (below) and actor Kevin Spacey. They rubbed shoulders with the great and the good of high finance, including GLG co-founder Pierre Lagrange and his former star fund manager Greg Coffey, now at Moore Capital; Paul Marshall, co-founder of Marshall Wave; David Harding of Winton Capital; “Dead Aid” author Dambisa Moyo, who has just joined the board of Barclays; Icap boss Michael Spencer; and former Man Group chief Stanley Fink, the new chairman of ARK.
The guests were treated to an “Arcadia” themed party at the old Eurostar terminal at Waterloo, complete with tree-lined avenues and sprigs of flowers covering everything. (I’m told, incidentally, that the venue has only been in use for parties twice since it closed, both times for the ARK gala party.)
They ate finest Japanese kobe beef fillet and Patagonian miso black cod for their main courses, followed by a mouthwatering selection of mini dessert canapés – including Normandy crème brulee, pink lemonade jelly with wild berries and gold leaf, chilled Valrohna chocolate and chilli soup, white chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries and a Sicilian lemon mousseline.
After dinner, Busson surpassed even his own high standards by managing to persuade superstar rock band The Killers to perform for the guests – even though their guitarist Dave Keuning announced in January that the band would take a break.
The annual extravaganza, which used to regularly raise over £25m in the boom years pre-credit crunch, is expected to rake in around £10m this year, dampened slightly by the recent Greek/political/US turmoil on the markets.
Mind you, if last year is anything to go by, that could well be surpassed – the organisers said the same thing then, and eventually made £15.6m. Lots at the auction included a yellow Fiat 500 customised with butterflies by Damian Hirst; a trip to the Fifa World Cup final in South Africa with VIP hospitality and a trip to a game reserve; a luxury Caribbean island holiday with private jet travel; a raffle with 10 personalised Vespas at £5,000 a ticket; and the opportunity to sponsor one of ARK’s charity programmes in Africa.
Concrete proof, if it were needed, that the City has a big, big heart as well as deep pockets.