They are heading towards Becher’s Brook in the 2018 Inappropriate Corporate Eventing Stakes, with the field already shredded following some dramatic early fallers.
You’ll recall there was an almighty pile-up at the first hurdle in January, when several veteran riders found themselves unseated during the Presidents Club charity dinner at the Dorchester hotel in Park Lane, central London. There, a steward’s inquiry was convened after a string of “hostesses” – all clad in short, tight black skirts and high heels – accused the gentlemen of the City of groping, lewd comments and extending invitations to adjourn to hotel bedrooms.
Then, in February, a clutch of gambling companies fell at the second after they defied calls from their regulator to stamp out sexism at the industry’s showcase UK event – the ICE Totally Gaming conference at the Excel centre in the London docklands. The delegates were entertained by pole dancers and a Playboy-themed show, while hostesses claimed to have been harassed and propositioned.
Now those who haven’t been gelded enter one of the trickier-looking legs of the whole chase this week, with the property industry assembling in Cannes for its annual boondoggle, called Mipim (Marché international des professionnels de l’immobilier).
Meanwhile, in the UK, the corporate hospitality industry is working itself up into a heightened state of arousal as it prepares to serve copious amounts of Guinness to already well-refreshed stockbrokers attending a paid-for jolly at the Cheltenham festival. The property industry stable is particularly concerned here, following the string of entries it had running under its colours at the Presidents Club.
A clutch of gambling companies fell at the second after they defied calls from their regulator to stamp out sexism
For the sector’s main bash in France, frequent Mipim attendees report that the crowd is typically “90% male”, with some supposedly fond of using the phrase “a rental” to gallantly refer to something other than a tenancy on a new maisonette.
Bars and hotel lobbies along La Croisette have previously been reported to be “full of leggy blondes with broken English and not even a passing interest in real estate yields”. One hotel once supplied its corporate guests with “love boxes” containing condoms, massage oil and scented candles.
It is hard to discern what is more clumsy about some of this crowd: their language, their errant hands or their efforts to employ fading O-level French. But, whichever you alight on, you can tell the trade is panicking that its members might be about to let the side down again. As the event organisers reassuringly said in an official statement last month: “Under no circumstances does Mipim register prostitutes.”
Over in the west country, at the other big corporate playground this week, the mood is similarly tense.
The event, a huge drinking festival occasionally intertwined with a spot of National Hunt racing, is the sort of place that encourages behaviour that even footballers can feel the need to apologise for.
The bookie and race sponsor Sky Bet is attempting to set the tone this year, saying: “We have long felt the use of walk-in girls for promotional uses has had its day in sport and the time was right to use this exposure opportunity more positively.”
And so instead it intends to offer a charity, the Injured Jockeys Fund, the chance of walking in the winner of the first race.
Meanwhile, the City firms who will be paying for a lot of the booze are believed to be warning attendees about their conduct.
Nothing could possibly go wrong.