Five-star follies

The sybaritic splendour of Four Seasons Provence

On the day last September when the Dow Jones fell by 777.7 points, I accepted a job as the launch editor of a magazine dedicated to the luxury events sector. You might think this foolhardy, but I was banking on the kind of counter-intuitive judgment that can make (or break) a career.

 It was clear from the off that I faced an uphill struggle. My life was not made any easier when Giorgio Armani used the occasion of the opening of a flagship store in New York to declare that the era of the high-roller was over. Announcing the donation of $1 million to a local schools fund, Armani said: “Now is not the time to spend that kind of money on canapés.”

 His point was only slightly muted by the fact that trays of expensive nibbles, carried by gorgeous young things, were circulating as he spoke. No matter – the events world echoed to the sound of a large penny dropping. The flight from the five-star was on.

We produced one issue of the magazine. It looked sleek; it looked glossy; it looked exactly like a product of an age that had just ended and it folded shortly afterwards.

So it is a surprise, more than a year after modern capitalism’s almost fatal heart seizure, to note that some companies are still binging. A recent report in the Daily Telegraph described how BT spent £1m on a junket for 150 sales staff and partners to the Four Seasons hotel in Provence – a month after announcing plans to cut 30,000 jobs (http://tinyurl.com/yffys7p). For those who are interested, the whole sorry saga of BT’s events procurement procedures has been detailed by trade magazine Meetings & Incentive Travel (http://tinyurl.com/ybyoa6d).

Yesterday, the chancellor of the exchequer presented a pre-Budget report with all the joie-de-vivre of man giving a speech at his own funeral. Some big name companies need to stop behaving as if all their Christmases have come at once.

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