Business and banking grandees thronging the ornate halls included Robert Swannell, newly-appointed as the incoming chairman of Marks & Spencer (the event’s main sponsor, though Swannell himself assured me that his presence there was mere coincidence and that he has not yet stepped out to officially represent the retailer for the first time).
Completing the “supermarket sweep” were Sainsbury’s boss Justin King and his daughter Briony and Tesco’s Sir Terry Leahy with his daughter Katie; while the banking contingent was represented by a selection of the City’s most celebrated rainmakers, including Credit Suisse’s Russell Chambers and Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s co-head of corporate broking Mark Astaire. Astaire was joined at the event by his daughter Emma and former veteran colleague Matthew Greenburgh, who quit the City earlier this year to go back to university.
Many of the attendees were involved with planning the event, which committee members said was the original brainchild of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal chairman Donald Brydon, also chair of Royal Mail.
On the committee were London Stock Exchange chairman Chris Gibson-Smith and Dame Clara Furse, the exchange’s former chief executive. “I’d urge you all to have a good look at the auction lots,” Furse told the guests as dinner was served. “Daughters, this really is the point at which you should take your fathers shopping…”
None heeded that advice more soundly than Briony King, who managed to persuade father Justin to stump up a healthy £16,000 for a bespoke portrait of herself and her brother by painter Johnny Jonas. Also digging deep for a worthy cause – the charitable work of the London Symphony Orchestra and the Cricket Foundation – were Finsbury PR founder Roland Rudd, who bought a box for 18 at the O2 to see Shakira in concert;
and Dame Clara and Robert Swannell, who snapped up work experience for their progenies at Deutsche Bank and the London Symphony Orchestra respectively.
A DOLLAR A MINUTE
All that giving certainly did not disappoint the event organisers who managed to raise an astonishing £200,000 on the evening, net of expenses – in no small part thanks to the hard graft of master auctioneer Nick Bonham.
Bonham kicked off the proceedings by auctioning off the highest-denomination banknote ever printed – 100 trillion dollars.
“Of course, it’s worthless – they’re Zimbabwean dollars,” Bonham chuckled. The note eventually went for £2,000, a sterling feat indeed.