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PROPERTY BARONS PAY TRIBUTE TO THEIR SAGE

IT WAS a hop, a skip and a jump over to the Dorchester yesterday lunchtime for the slap-up annual lunch hosted by Gerald Ronson, the seasoned chief of property group Heron International.

Ronson’s list of invitees reads like a who’s who of the upper echelons of property and high finance, including ex-Lloyds chair Sir Victor Blank, Investec managing director Bernard Kantor, British Land boss Chris Grigg, CVC Capital Partners’ senior adviser Sir Trevor Chinn, Xstrata chief executive Mick Davis… the list goes on and on.

His guest speakers are of equally fine calibre – the aforementioned Blank did last year’s, while Olympics minister Tessa Jowell valiantly stepped into the breach at the last minute in 2008 when Sir Fred Goodwin bowed out, for obvious reasons.

Chosen to regale the diners at yesterday’s lunch was one of Ronson’s fellow property veterans, Berkeley Homes chairman Tony Pidgley – which did seem an unusual choice, the two being rivals and all that, until Pidgley actually began speaking.

“There can only ever be one ‘Guv’ner’,” Pidgley gushed, referring to the nickname Ronson picked up in prison after the infamous “Guinness Four” share-trading scandal, of which he was later acquitted.

“There’s only one boss in our business and that’s Gerald, in his seventies now and still going strong...I never expected Berkeley to be upstaged – we’re too good at what we do – but Gerald has done it. If you haven’t visited the Heron Tower, you really should…”

A shining lesson in the old adage that one should keep friends close and enemies – or, indeed, rivals – even closer.

BIRD SONG
Ronson himself, still visibly chuffed after the “topping out” ceremony for the 46-storey Heron Tower on Monday, was happy to trumpet the domination of his company in the City.

In addition to the gigantic glass-and-steel tower, Ronson is also building The Heron, a residential tower of luxury apartments just off Moorgate, and he’s also submitted a planning application to develop a new Four Seasons Hotel at Heron Plaza, just next to the Heron Tower.

“You have to have vision,” Ronson told his distinguished guests yesterday. “In China, 2010 is the year of the Tiger; in the City of London, we believe it is the year of the Heron…”

PROPERTY LADDER
While we’re on the subject of property, a canny little game catches The Capitalist’s eye, all the way from Vancouver, Canada.

Actually, that’s stretching the truth a little – the game is actually on the Web, at www.crackshackormansion. com. Ideal for a spot of lunchtime winding down, the idea of the game is to peruse the site’s collection of photographs of Vancouver real estate and decide which ones are virtually worthless and which are worth over $1m. The catch? It’s not as easy as you might think, given Vancouver’s rocketing property prices, and buyers most certainly don’t get much bang for their buck.

FIRE WATER
With St George’s Day fast approaching on 23 April, the avowed patriots out there might want to indulge in a spot of good old-fashioned boozing – all in the name of king and country, of course.

I hear that the English Whisky Company, which owns St George’s Distillery – officially the first and only registered whisky distilling company in England – is doing a roaring trade in its potent firewater, having released its first three-year-old single malt, Chapter 6, in December. Chapter 8, its next concoction, has already sold out on pre-order, but 4,000 of its upcoming Chapter 9, a peated three-year-old malt, are being released in June. Brits catching up with their Scots cousins in the whisky stakes? Who’d have thought it?

GLORIOUS GOODWOOD
It’s that time of year again, and Goodwood is preparing once again to show off all its glory. Goodwood has added more racing than ever before to its calendar, which begins on 1 May with the “Goodwood Garden Party”, made famous when King Edward VII likened the event to a garden party “with racing tagged on”.

Of course, the main event will be the flagship July festival – start dusting off those morning suits and frocks now…

CHARITY APPEAL
The emerging stars of the charity sector can count on a wealth of opportunities in the future, thanks to a new organisation supported by some of the most influential veterans of the business world.

The Clore Social Leadership Programme has been going since late 2008 and was set up to identify and develop emerging talent in the third sector.

But it yesterday beefed up its offering by announcing a raft of new trustees to the board, including former Bank of England deputy governor Sir John Gieve, Resolution chairman Clive Cowdery and David Harrel, now a non-executive director of Rathbone Brothers and a founding partner of law firm SJ Berwin.

Definitely one to keep an eye on.

MONEY BAGS

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg certainly didn’t win himself any favours with his party’s manifesto yesterday, if an emailed note from Cantor Fitzgerald’s chief global equity strategist Stephen Pope is anything to go by.

“I thought it was Australian sports teams that adopted the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, cutting down to size any individual that was doing so well that others were in the shade,” grumbled Pope.

He goes on to slam the party’s plans to axe cash bonuses over £2,500, avoid paying bonuses to company boards and – most of all – disclosing fully any individual earning more than the Prime Minister.

“What is it with the level of income that the PM makes?” argues Pope. “How about we adjust for inflation the income earned for the five years after leaving office of Baroness Thatcher, Sir John Major and Tony Blair...” Quite.