Welcome to FN’s weekly diary column featuring all the best titbits from around the City of London…
HSBC seeks to quell Chinese whispers
Celebrations are underway for Chinese New Year, which began last Saturday and ends on 8 February. One of the City’s most famous Chinese New Year parties, this time marking the Year of the Rat, is the annual shindig thrown by HSBC. But questions are being raised over why the UK lender’s party is on 26 February — more than a month after the beginning of Chinese New Year and a fortnight after it ends.
City hacks… well… smell a rat at the lateness of the bash, which this year is being held at the Shangri-La hotel in the Shard. Is the 2020 get-together being deliberately timed to occur after HSBC’s full-year results and strategic update on 18 February?
“The last thing HSBC wanted was a room full of journalists asking the bank’s top brass for advance guidance on the strategic update and the future of interim chief executive Noel Quinn,” says our source. “This way they get the strategic announcements out of the way and senior execs can be less fearful of fielding pesky questions while tucking into their dumplings and spring rolls.” An HSBC spokesman said: “We look forward to welcoming everyone to celebrate the Year of the Rat.”
Pre-Davos chatter that celebrities would stay away from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting proved wide of the mark, if the Global Goals dinner guest list was anything to go by. Guests at the dinner and nightcap afterwards at Davos House included David Cameron, Ivanka Trump, John Kerry, Tony Blair, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Bank of America boss Brian Moynihan and showbiz types Jayden Smith and Priyanka Chopra. Capital’s spy spotted daredevil magician David Blaine, who is becoming something of a Davos groupie, performing his tricks at a table with Tony Blair and Ivanka Trump. Sadly for the former PM, conjurer Blaine can’t make Brexit disappear…
Someone most definitely not hosting parties at Davos was Sir Martin Sorrell. As chief executive of WPP he was the quintessential Davos man, attracting the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo to his glitzy shindigs at the Swiss Alpine town. But while the advertising mogul, who set up S4 Capital after his acrimonious split from WPP in 2018, still showed up in Davos, he scaled back his social organising. “We can’t afford them,” he told Capital, adding that the annual summit had grown too large, “impersonal and frenetic”. WPP used to host two glamorous WEF get-togethers when Sorrell was at the helm, but has also not held any bashes at Davos since its founder’s exit. The party’s over.
King of the Hill
Irascible actor Laurence Fox has been on a political crusade since he appeared on the BBC’s Question Time, attacking identity politics and “woke” culture. Capital can reveal that Fox’s new film Born a King, a UK-Spanish co-production in which he plays famed explorer Lawrence of Arabia, has a powerful fan. Bill Clinton has seen Born a King twice and showed up to the film’s premiere in Washington DC in November. The $21m movie, directed by Agusti Villaronga and written by Henry Fitzherbert, has been a box-office smash in Saudi Arabia but is yet to secure a distribution deal in the UK. Fox did not attend the film’s premiere in DC. Yet given the shots Fox has been firing against liberals of late, for the sake of the UK-US special relationship, it’s probably for the best he and Bubba never got to rub shoulders at the premiere…
City Brexiteers are eagerly awaiting nightclub owner and prominent Eurosceptic Robin Birley’s party at his Mayfair venue 5 Hertford Street on 31 January to celebrate Britain leaving the European Union. Birley, who has given money to both Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, will host a large gathering of notable Brexit-supporting politicians, journos and financiers, among them Iain Duncan Smith and Daniel Hannan. A spokesman for 5 Hertford Street declined to comment but a Square Mile Brexiteer says: “The tables are ironically being named after prominent Europhiles — I’m on the Anna Soubry table. Can’t wait!” But will the guests ever leave?
To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Tom Teodorczuk