One of the crucibles of entrepreneurship in London is under threat despite thriving events, serviced office and private club businesses. Milo Yiannopoulos reports.
The buildings housing Adam Street Private Members’ Club and Adam House serviced offices are being sold by Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) at a price aimed at “foreign developers who want to turn the properties into residential flats for rich foreign buyers”, according to a source close to the business.
James Minter, founder of Adam Street and Adam House, is understood to have reinvigorated the operation after a period of moribundity into a profitable business employing some 40 people. The business lays out some £500,000 in tax annually, according to documents seen by The Kernel.
But the buildings in which the club and the office space are located are being sold because they cross-guarantee debt in a failed company portfolio. The businesses and the 130 employees based at Adam House will be forced to move elsewhere.
“We have offered a full price for the buildings,” says James Minter, ”but HBOS have been told that if the buildings can be made into a yield-free wealth store for private, overseas investors, they can stretch the value a little further. It is surely wrong that a tax-payer rescued bank can behave in this way, destroying British jobs and contributions to the Exchequer at the same time.”
According to Minter, the decision to sell the buildings was made by HBOS because the bank “believes it will achieve a higher market price if sold to a commercial developer for residential conversion”, rather than selling to current tenants and their backers.
Perhaps more crucially, Westminster Borough Council, whose planning permission would be required for a change of use, is also under the microscope. The council has come under heavy fire in recent years for allowing vast swathes of commercial space in central London to be converted to residential blocks primarily aimed at wealthy foreign buyers.
Adam Street is a club with a unique place in London’s entrepreneurial history. For a long time it was the favoured meeting spot of a coalition of entrepreneurs – some technology, but not all – creatives from the local theatre scene, investors, journalists and consultants.
Despite its reputation as home of some outrageous parties – it once hosted a naked lube wrestling birthday party organised for Neverbland chief executive Sam Mathews – it has never once attracted the ire of neighbours or the council.
Today, the club hosts a plethora of entrepreneur- and investor-focused events, including some laid on by The Kernel and our partners, which continue to attract some of the biggest names in entrepreneurship.
In the last year, talks and networking events have featured the likes of Autonomy’s Mike Lynch, Tony Hayward, Willie Walsh, Brent Hoberman, Charles Dunstone and Betfair’s Ed Wray.
It is not known how long the club will remain open for business. We can only hope that it is not snapped up by foreign developers, because the loss of Adam Street would be a bitter blow to London’s entrepreneurial community.
“For over twelve years, we have built a thriving hub of economic activity,” says Minter, “where individuals started with an idea and built sizeable, profitable international enterprises. Policies that destroy active wealth generation are bad for our economy. The Government and the Business Minister in particular should be interrogating this practice very closely in the current economic environment, as should Westminster Council.”