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PROPERTY FUND GURUS HEDGING THEIR BETS

ISN&rsquo;T IT astonishing to discover the lengths to which advisers will go to finesse their PR message?<br /><br />Yesterday, City A.M. ran a piece about the UK Strategic Income Property Fund. It will be managed by Coba Asset Management&rsquo;s Graham Gould and BDO Stoy Hayward Investment Management, while advisers include industry veteran and former Slough Estates chief executive Roger Carey, and property consultants Strutt &amp; Parker.<br /><br />The thrust of the article centred around the hefty fees investors will pay for the high-profile advisers on the team &ndash; namely an entry fee of two per cent, an annual management fee of one per cent of the gross asset value of the fund, and an adviser fee of up to three per cent.<br /><br />Now The Capitalist was going to leave this one well alone, but the original emailed press release also contained &ndash; entirely by mistake, we can only presume &ndash; a copy of internal correspondence sent among the advisers, discussing those controversial fees. And since another email was received yesterday after the article was published, denying that the fees were on the high side, we felt it only in the public interest that a discrepancy in the public and private opinions of the advisers came to light.<br /><br />&ldquo;The fund&rsquo;s fees are in all respects competitive compared to similar funds (and in some cases cheaper),&rdquo; read the email yesterday. &ldquo;The overall tone and implication that they are expensive is wholly unjustified&hellip;&rdquo;<br /><br />Strange, then, that the internal email correspondence between the advisers contained the following juicy snippets.<br /><br />&ldquo;Should we take out the reference to fees altogether? If people want to know they can ask, which enables us to explain them, but putting them in might create a focus?&rdquo; asked Robert Walters, investment property director at BDO.<br /><br />&ldquo;We need to avoid the criticism that the fees are high!&rdquo; barked back Charles Lochrane, a partner at Strutt and Parker, prompting another response from Walters, who said: &ldquo;Avoiding criticism is one thing, but&hellip; hiding from the reality of the fees is likely to draw unwelcome attention.&rdquo;<br /><br />Mission accomplished.<br /><br /><strong>FAMILY SILVER</strong><br />The eBay community has once again gone wild for Lehman Brothers memorabilia, just over a year after it was first swamped with pens, paper, stock certificates and canvas bags to commemorate the downfall of the great institution.<br /><br />Now, however, the most popular items appear to be engraved silver or chrome tea sets &ndash; complete with teapots, saucers and dainty little cups &ndash; which are being flogged for up to &pound;120 on the site.<br /><br />At least someone&rsquo;s still profiting from the biggest banking collapse in history.<br /><br /><strong>NAIL IN THE COFFIN</strong><br />Sticking with the Lehman theme, and still the stories from angry ex-employees continue to flood in.<br /><br />One former staffer takes particular issue with the opening of Lehman&rsquo;s Dubai office at the top of the market, which he says was &ldquo;reckless, careless insanity&rdquo; and involved spending up to $100m on renovations.<br /><br />Not that the figure should come as a surprise, mind &ndash; I&rsquo;m told former bank boss Dick Fuld sent out his two trusted art advisers to splash out on paintings and sculpture especially for the project, while even the wood and nails for the office were flown out from the US for security reasons. How the other half lived, eh?<br /><br /><strong>COVERT CUISINE</strong><br />For once, it looks like Royal Bank of Scotland is blazing a trail in the public relations arena.<br /><br />I hear from corporate cookery firm Venturi&rsquo;s Table that demand for its private kitchen hospitality suite has more than doubled in the recession, as firms opt for less showy ways to schmooze their important clients.<br /><br />&ldquo;Clients are rejecting &lsquo;show-off&rsquo; boxes at cultural and sporting venues and requesting ideas for more low-key events,&rdquo; says the firm. So no corporate branded treats to celebrate national cupcake week, then?<br /><br /><strong>GOING DOWN A STORM</strong><br />Financial services professionals gathered in Hong Kong for the annual Sibos payments conference can finally breathe again, after Typhoon Koppu breezed past the city onto the South China coastline yesterday.<br /><br />The conference seems to have developed something of a curse recently, with last year&rsquo;s event hit by the collapse of Lehman Brothers and now this year&rsquo;s severe weather warning.<br /><br />But though delegates were originally devastated at the cancellation of the evening networking events on Monday (&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a real shame, the canap&eacute;s are normally top draw,&rdquo; quipped Chris Skinner of the Financial Services Club, morosely), it was back to normality yesterday with a grateful bump. Crisis averted.