London’s “Gropers Gala” was a favorite of real estate industry

“Property definitely has a problem.”

The Dorchester Hotel in London, where the Presidents Club Charity Dinner was hosted
The Dorchester Hotel in London, where the Presidents Club Charity Dinner was hosted

London’s “Gropers Gala’ fundraiser, where members of the all-male guest list harassed female waitstaff, was heavily attended by real estate executives.

Real estate groups sponsored 10 of the 21 tables at the Presidents Club Charity Dinner last week according to the Financial Times, which on Tuesday published a shocking report on inappropriate activities at the club that had gone on in plain sight for years.

The charity fundraiser, where young women were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned, shut down following the news report after 33 years.

Of the more than 300 guests who attended the event, 39 have so far been identified as working in the real estate industry, and another 151 were guests of real estate companies.

“Property definitely has a problem,” an industry figure who did not want to be named told the newspaper.

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“There are big characters, big egos. It’s all about money, it’s all about relationships, and it’s always been tycoons and megabucks,” he added. “It can all combust at times.”

In New York City, the real estate industry is coming to terms with institutionalized sexism and the way its female members are treated. Bawdy “bro culture” exists at many industry functions, such as the numerous parties hosted around the annual International Council of Shopping Centers expo in Las Vegas. And at the annual MIPM real estate conference in France, prostitutes are a regular sight at champaign-fueled yacht parties. Two year ago, the industry publication Estates Gazette called the event “not property’s finest hour.”

Back in London, however, at least one real estate figure pushed back on the criticism that’s been hurled at the President’s Club.

“I mean, the people who go, we can afford a girl if we want one,” the executive told the FT. “The ticket to the dinner costs £5,000 but if we spend £500 or £1,000 we can get a girl to come to our house if that’s what we wanted.

“These are not underage girls. They are all over 18. They know what they are doing,” he said. “They all know it’s a bit racy. There is free champagne. They can have a drink, they have fun.

“Do things happen after? God knows,” he added. “They can always complain to the police if so.” [FT]Rich Bockmann