Chapter 39: The Personality Cult
The rest of the week went by without incident. Julian was not in, “Working from home.” Large bunches of flowers appeared on Dolores and Cass’ desks.
Dolores congratulated Cass in finding him so quickly. She told Cass of the time he went missing in Moscow, missing flights and alleging that he had been arrested after breaking up a fight over a young woman.
“You don’t believe that do you?” Cass asked.
“Why would he lie?” Dolores replied naively. Cass was beginning to understand the office politics. People liked Julian. People were loyal to Julian. He was a genius but also kind and fun. The men worshipped him, tried to emulate him professionally, if not personally. The women covered and cared for him. His weaknesses were part of his charm.
Cass carried on with her boring work, reports on title. Sometimes she wondered why these rich clients were buying such small properties, but it was explained away that they needed houses for their staff to rent. Serfdom was alive and well in North London.
She noticed that the purchases were expanding to outside the M25 and that these were also becoming commercial purchases. Sometimes she received calls asking about the best private schools near the provincial locations. The reports were sent directly to Julian before they went on to the client. Completions and Land Registrations were dealt with by Julian’s assistant. She did not have too much client nor agent contact, which in her opinion was good. She could get on with her work in relative peace. It was the most relaxed at work, she had been in years.
Clients’ funds and property were held in trust in off shore companies with nominee directors and shareholders. Julian was the director of most of these companies and then the shareholders were off shore companies, of which he was also the sole director and shareholder. On paper he owned everything.
He had originally started these structures to assist businesses in tax reduction but as things became more unstable in the BRIC, these structures were also used for property. Cass became aware of the kudos he held with these clients. He even had control over their business accounts, being the sole signatory to be able to purchase these properties, pay dividends or suppliers. She was impressed that this man could command so much trust.
The client entertainment was extravagant. Hiring yachts for regattas, weekends away with trips to “gentlemen’s clubs” for the more earthy male client, tea at the Ritz for the ladies and spa weekends. They did not hold parties like most departments, because a lot of the clients wanted to remain private. When it was International Women’s Day, all the female clients were sent Herme scarves and Fortnum and Mason hampers.
Department parties sounded equally extravagant. Weekends in his mansions in Tuscany or France by private chartered jet. He made sure that even the department’s receptionist came on these little treats. Once there, the mansion staff looked after everything and the employees got to sip limitless champagne by the pool.
Dolores said that the French Mansion was off this year, because he had raffled it in the last Firm party. “Rebecca was furious!”
Cass learnt that the furniture and the paintings in his office were either antique or original. He liked buying the best.
From one of the old boys in the office, Cass was regaled with stories of the Moscow office’s at the beginning. The safe was choker block with cash. “The old Cossacks only dealt in hard U S dollars in the nineties. They would come in a cloud of fag smoke and strong aftershave, with a lovely on their arms. Handover ten grand, never asking for a receipt. Madness really. Can’t get away with that now though.” Cass wasn’t too sure, they were allowed to do that even in the nineties.
In the other rooms at the office, there was not a lot of work going on. There was office cricket and long lunches but not a lot of productivity. Dolores and Cass’ room seemed to be the busiest. She was unsure, how all this was working but when she asked questions she was met with some strange answers. Replies, which were not really answering the question. She was beginning to suspect that old guard did not actually know how the whole department worked. Then Cass thought that she was being silly. She had no idea how Caroline ran her department, except with bullying and fear. Cass was just being paranoid because she had found somewhere nice to work and was not used to it.