Abe looks on as the Savoy heads west

THE Savoy Group's 109th and final annual general meeting was an emotional affair. As the group has been bought for pounds 520m by Blackstone Real Estate, the American investment group, it seemed fitting that the last meeting was held yesterday in the Lincoln Room under the gaze of Honest Abe himself. He was the oldest person in the room, but not by much.

The first problem was the chairs. No one at the Savoy really knew how many of the 2,200 shareholders were going to show so they decided to take away the chairs just in case. In the end, only a few hundred came and so the chairs were put back. Thank God because standing was not an option for many of those who arrived leaning heavily on their canes.

"Welcome to the 109th annual general meeting of the shareholders of this company," said the chairman, Sir Ewen Fergusson, slowly and patiently. One woman grunted. She had been a shareholder for 40 years and was not impressed. "I don't approve at all," she said of the sale.

She wasn't the only one. "My name is Eve as in Christmas Eve," shouted a man in the front row. "Horatio at the bridge was high hearted. He was protecting Rome from predators. There was no self-interest in it!" He then went on to compare the Wotner family and the D'Oyly Carte Trust to Horatio. But now, he said, it turns out they were open to a generous offer. "We small shareholders ... have been sold down the river!" A murmur rippled through the room. "Hear, hear" could faintly be heard.

Mr Eve then had a final burst of patriotism. "The Savoy has gone to foreigners. The RAC has gone to foreigners. Rolls-Royce has gone to foreigners. Is the Marylebone Cricket Club safe?"

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