Following the successful sale of the White House in December 2016 for £3.85 million, the Council and management have carefully reviewed the options for premises for the Club's activities and investment of the sale proceeds.
A major decision taken was that the Club's best interests would be served by leasing premises rather than buying. Several factors contributed to this decision, some informed by the experience of owning and selling the White House, for example that operational needs may change over time and it is difficult to anticipate these years in advance, that the nature and size of space for meetings, training and events vary hugely and cannot be accommodated readily in one building, that even in a prime location and with decent market conditions, it is difficult to sell and that property ownership can build up significant liabilities for refurbishment etc.
Another significant factor was the risk of committing a major part, say 60% or £2.4 million, of the Club's reserves into a single, illiquid property investment. Furthermore, the choice of location for the Club’s premises, which it was decided should remain within a few miles of Wimbledon, is not necessarily a location that would be chosen for such a significant property investment. In other words, the criteria for the operational premises do not correlate well with those for investment.
We have taken a lease on purpose-built, modern office premises in Connect House, just a short distance from Wimbledon station, and we will move in late November.
Reserves and InvestmentWith the White House sale there was always going to be part of the proceeds to invest as the reserves of the Club. For many years Council has followed a strategy of running balanced budgets and this continues, such that any reserves should be preserved. This does not preclude the use of reserves for investment in assets or projects considered to be in the long term interests of members, which could result in a short term deficit, at least in cash terms.
To manage the investment of the reserves, an Investment Committee of Council was formed and was charged with the responsibility of investing the reserves with a medium to long term horizon. The Investment Committee invited proposals and held presentations with three professional investment management firms. Rathbone Brothers plc was selected and the reserve funds have been placed with them on a discretionary management basis and are now fully invested
Library and Heritage AssetsCouncil has taken great care to find a long-term solution for our library and heritage assets, both to protect them for the future and facilitate greater access for members and the public alike. A long-term partnership has been agreed with a leading international Centre for Sporting History who will house the Ski Club’s library and heritage assets (other than those required for the new office premises and the Alpine themed pub mentioned below) on permanent loan. They will curate, catalogue, preserve and care for the collection and be responsible for its insurance and upkeep. This arrangement together with the Alpine themed pub will mean that the collection will become available to a much wider National and International audience. The Centre for Sporting History will accommodate requests from the public for details from the collection and it may be appropriate to digitise some items for online access.
Council and management are conscious that some view the White House as a clubhouse and are concerned that the move to purely office premises may diminish our “clubbiness”. The reality is that very few events are held at the White House as it is often not suitable, whether due to location, size or facilities. Thus the summer party was frequently held at the Hurlingham Club (but has for now been discontinued due to lack of support from members) and the End of Season and industry parties are held at other commercial venues. Council has every desire to promote events for members and seek themes and venues that are attractive but do not believe that these aims can be served to any great extent from the Club’s permanent premises.
An agreement has been reached with a proven operator of pubs and restaurants who will be opening an Alpine themed pub in Central London in 2018. They will display many of the pictures, skis, trophies, boards and other artefacts which will be visible to many people on a daily basis. We have taken care to ensure that they remain in our ownership and are suitably protected and insured. This venue will be available for member functions, meetings and industry events and will become an official Ski Club venue.
These new arrangements allow us freedom and flexibility to provide more useful, and hopefully more popular member events and meetings, both in central London and around the country. We are planning a diverse campaign of events that will hopefully strike a chord with the membership and allow greater activity and participation.
We are working on support for members’ social skiing to allow members to better access skiing with the Club, particularly in resorts without a Leader, and this extends to the social side including exploring the events that we attend or arrange and even possibly an ‘on-snow’ club-house. We aim to try out a variety of ideas, to see what works best for the membership, and to hopefully have a regular series of events both at home and on-snow.