Welcome to Capital Confidential—a weekly diary column featuring the best tidbits from around the U.K.’s business and political landscape from MarketWatch sister publication Financial News.
This week: The empty spot on the walls of Washington’s National Portrait Gallery for Trump’s painting will remain vacant a while longer, and WeWork finds an unlikely defender…
Portrata non grata
In March 2018, as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s drive to “drain the swamp”, he signed the Eliminating Government-Funded Oil Painting Act. The bipartisan-backed law prevents the government from using taxpayers’ money to pay for portraits of federal officials. The upshot of this is that Washington DC’s prestigious National Portrait Gallery has portraits of every U.S. president hanging on its walls except Trump.
London-based artist Ben Turnbull, who specializes in US-themed collages, wanted to change this by offering the NPG his new portrait of Trump. Turnbull, who has previously exhibited with street artist Banksy, created MADe in America using cutouts of the face of MAD magazine’s iconic fictional cover star Alfred E Neuman. The work is part of his new exhibition in Bermondsey.
“I hoped it would have been accepted in the spirit it is given — to make sense of this hugely divisive figure,” Turnbull tells Capital. “It is more a portrait of a nation than of him.” Alas the NPG isn’t MAD for it.
In emails seen by Capital, NPG director Kim Sajet says: “I don’t believe the portrait is appropriate for the NPG… I can’t see how this would be a good fit for us.” What does Trump (hardly bashful when it comes to his self-image) think of the picture? The White House didn’t get back to Capital.
Reports suggest anti-Brexit millionaire Roland Rudd, founder and chairman of PR firm Finsbury, is preparing to step down as chair of Open Britain, which runs the People’s Vote campaign. Change is afoot at Finsbury as well. As HSBC gears up to appoint a permanent chief executive to succeed John Flint, Europe’s biggest bank has switched its corporate strategic communications representation from Finsbury to rival PR company Brunswick.
In defense of WeWork
WeWork needs all the friends it can get right now, what with the troubled property startup having to be rescued by SoftBank. But unlikely support for WeWork comes via Steve Norris. The former Tory party mayoral candidate, now chair of the Soho Estates property company, tells Capital WeWork has revolutionized real estate.
“Whether that company survives or not, what it has done is shown how the new way of flexible working has to involve landlords who actually provide service to their tenants,” he says.
“The tradition of landlords over decades, if not centuries, has been to say: ‘Here’s your room, give me the cash.’ While WeWork itself is a model I personally am not going to be subscribing to, the principle of co-working, which WeWork established, is the way forward.”
Hats off to the 25 rising stars honored at Financial News’s annual Asset Management Awards Europe. Marte Borhaug, global head of environmental, social and governance investment solutions at Aviva Investors, told us she is working on an app that will get people get more involved in shareholding voting.
Gareth Simmons, fund manager at Columbia Threadneedle, has had a busy 2019: in July the Threadneedle (Lux) European Short-Term High Yield Bond fund was launched, which he co-manages and he is now on shared parental leave following the birth of his second child.
Meanwhile the teenage son of Oliver Bell, co-head of equity for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at U.S. asset manager T Rowe Price, which won Equity Manager of the Year, sounds like a rising sports star. “Max was on the books of Crystal Palace [FC], but now he wants to be a ski instructor,” Bell told Capital.
Callum Cant’s new book Riding for Deliveroo, recounting his time working for the online food-delivery company, claims workers are rebelling against Deliveroo in a modern-day class uprising.
“The organization of work at Deliveroo produced a technical class composition — an organization of individual workers into a working class doing a job— which was ready to explode,” writes Cant who is currently on a national tour promoting his tome.
“We were subject to authoritarian algorithmic management; we had no guaranteed wages; we worked in constant danger; we had no commitment to or control over the labor process.”
Cant, who works for left-wing group Momentum, tells Capital that not only has there been no reaction from Deliveroo to the tome, he hasn’t heard from any of the company’s bosses since he was given his kit when he first started riding for them. Deliveroo didn’t deliver a verdict on the book to Capital.