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William Cash recalls endless stamp-licking during Spear's early years, and its progress from an office above a kebab shop to its lush 10th anniversary celebration in Pall Mall.
Just a few hundred yards from the St James’s Street HQ of HSBC Private Bank where we celebrated our launch back in May 2006, Spear’s celebrated our 10th anniversary with a party over three floors of British art at the Philip Mould Gallery in Pall Mall. Sponsored by Chatila jewellers, Charbonnel et Walker chocolates, Copperhead Gin, and Laurent-Perrier champagne, the event brought together friends old and new, including many previous winners of Spear’s awards, the elite of London’s wealth management world, and HNW readers and contributors — many going back not just to our first issue, which featured on its cover a diving €100 note folded up into a paper aeroplane, but even earlier to our ‘pilot’ issue which was sent out to the 15,000 international members of Annabel’s clubs along with the Annabel’s magazine that I published for Robin Birley over a decade ago.
Over the past ten years, Spear’s has gone from strength to strength, filling a gap in the magazine marketplace for an authoritative, witty and insightful publication that is widely regarded as the ‘house’ magazine of the London-based international HNW community.
The guests who came to our 10th anniversary party certainly reflected the social, cultural and financial mix that has always made Spear’s unique. These included Philip Mould himself (a long-standing contributor); David Poole of Citi Private Bank; fashion mogul Leon Max (owner of Easton Neston and Max Studios); the Earl of Carnarvon (owner of Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey); the Earl of Dartmouth; Sir Rocco Forte; Mishcon family lawyer Sandra Davis (a former winner of a Spear’s outstanding achievement award for legal services), Adam Wethered (formerly of JP Morgan and Lord North Street, now at Sandaire), Mayfair estate agency owner Peter Wetherell, Chris Boon from Close Brothers, Ian Barnard from Capital Generation Partners, Nicholas Hornby from Cerno Capital, and Amber Melville-Brown, head of reputation litigation at Withers.
And that doesn’t include our illustrious contributors (from John Arlidge to Rupert Allason) and illustrators over the years. Our cover artist Adam Dant, of course, was there, having delivered his 46th cover for the magazine. After completing his iconic The Art Bank cover for our issue in May 2006 (an art world supplement), we experimented with another few illustrators for the next two issues. But nobody could could come close to the wit, brilliance and skill of Adam’s cover drawings.
What is it about 10th anniversary company milestones and recalling the late-night food that you and your fledgling team ate together in some cheap dive to celebrate the launch? On the tenth anniversary of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg recalled ‘getting pizza with friends’ in Harvard shortly after the launch, and telling his founding team that he was ‘excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world’.
Entrepreneurs may evangelise to the media (or scriptwriters) after the birth, but to those present the memory was quite different. This was certainly true of Spear’s. The original team — which included various key members of today’s team, including co-founder Wendy Coumantaros, Christopher Silvester and Rupert Phelps — was in no mood for such ‘holistic’ grand platitudes. We were exhausted, and even the all-night kebab shop below our offices in Notting Hill Gate was closed.
Celebrating with a pizza was the last thing on our minds, as I had come up with the novel idea of sending out around 2,000 advance copies to our VIP readership list — from the Duke of Westminster at Eaton Hall in Cheshire to the Chancellor at 11 Downing Street. This required us to stick the postage stamps on ourselves. This ‘stamp licking’ exercise took for ever — until 3am — and it made us feel sick, as we had used old-fashioned adhesive A4 envelopes. Worse, I had no idea that you couldn’t simply stick 2,000 copies of the first edition of Spear’s through the local post box.
My clearest memory of the launch night of Spear’s back in 2006 is of ordering my team (led by publisher Matt Crofton, who went on to found the luxury property journal primeresi.com) to drive around West London at dawn in taxis, squeezing as many copies as they could through every post box they could find. That took three hours and the taxi bills nearly broke us. Then the Notting Hill post office refused to send out the rest, saying they had to go bulk mail.
Within 24 hours of the first issue being sent out to the 25,000 members of what I called the Spear’s Rich List, I found myself in a greasy spoon cafe in Notting Hill with a Scottish financial media mogul who made overtures to buy the magazine. So I knew we had a winning formula. I soon found myself being interviewed by magazines, from Newsweek (we were featured in a special report in May 2006 on the ‘New Jet Set: Rootless Travellers — or Citizens of the World’) to Der Spiegel (ironically whose Notting Hill offices we ended up renting after moving on from above the kebab shop). A year later, FT Wealth launched. Well, you know what they say about imitation.
As I was thinking of what to say at the tenth anniversary party and was leafing through press cuttings from 2006, I came across a profile of Spear’s in Der Spiegel shortly after our first issue (‘Hilfe, ich bin Milliardar: In London. Wealth Management Survey, das Fachmagazin fur Superreiche’). I asked a German friend to translate it, and the gist of it was that to launch Spear’s I was either ‘crazy or inspired’ (‘übergeschnappt, vielleicht genial’). Only time would tell. Over the past ten years, I have sometimes wondered which it was.