Why office Christmas parties are out of favour

Sex, fights, exhibitionism ... and the morning after. No wonder Christmas bashes are out of favour. Ed Caesar looks back at the guilty parties


The hosts: Advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi, in 1987.

The goodies: In 1986, the agency treated its staff to what was, even by the excessive standards of London's adland in the 1980s, a massive bash. It filled the car park with a funfair - ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, the lot. The do is said to have cost £80,000. The next year, Saatchi & Saatchi spent even more; 700 staff arrived at a warehouse in London Docklands to find an exact small-scale recreation of London's advertising row, Charlotte Street. The shops and restaurants all had their own staff, and the Saatchiites spent the evening drinking, eating and shopping merrily.

The hangover: The 1980s were a magical time for advertising's expense accounts and corporate swagger, but the party had to end, and 1987 remains the zenith - or nadir - of the Christmas party as status symbol.

The hosts: The City brokers Intercapital, in 1995.

The goodies: Michael Spencer, then managing director of Intercapital, was convinced that "people remember the themed parties for two or three years afterwards", and that throwing lavish parties was good for morale.

Staff arrived at Gibson Hall in the City to find it decked out in the grand Russian Imperial style. It was the start of an evening of bizarre play-acting. The managing director's part was that of Tsar Nicholas II, enjoying a lavish Christmas banquet on the eve of the 1917 Revolution. His staff (decked out as Russian peasants, naturally), were encouraged to 'capture' him mid-way through the meal. The revolution, though, was short lived. The next morning, some groggy-headed workers were back at their desks to continue capitalist production.

The hangover: Spencer later told The Times that the secrecy before such events could raise speculation to fever pitch, which did, in turn, raise productivity.

The hosts: Financial services company Cambrian Associates, in 2003.

The goodies: At the Mollington Banastre Hotel in Chester, things turned ugly when two policemen started to become aggressive. Sergeant Stephen Tierney and PC Jonathan Tym were accompanying their wives, employees of Cambrian, and had had far too much to drink. They started to abuse one of their wives' colleagues, Michael Mayers. Mayers was knocked out in a flurry of punches and dragged across the dance floor by his tie. He was left in a corridor; some guests thought he was dead.

The hangover: The officers were suspended, then dismissed, and ordered to pay £2,200 in legal costs. And their wives will never invite them to a work do again.

The hosts: Premiership football club Liverpool FC, in 1998.

The goodies: It was the night the News of the World called "the most debauched Christmas party ever to shame soccer". In the basement of the Pen and Wig pub in Liverpool, the players of one of Europe's leading football clubs gathered to celebrate the simple joys of Christmas with some whipped cream, strippers and sex toys. Jamie Carragher, who had turned up as the Hunchback of Notre Dame, was keen to enjoy their performances at closer quarters, stripped off his costume and daubed his chest with whipped cream. The evening went downhill from there. Soon, Carragher and an unidentified man "dressed as Ainsley Harriot" were reported having sex with strippers and non-strippers alike, in full view of their fellow revellers. Michael Owen, only 19 at the time, stood at the back, and was said to be "stunned".

The hangover: After a severe rap over the knuckles for Carragher and his fellow dairy enthusiasts, it was back to business for the Premiership side.

The hosts: Investment bankers Merrill Lynch, in 2003

The goodies: Merrill Lynch were having one of those big boozy lunches favoured by City folk at Christmas when one senior lawyer, Nathaniel Norgren, spilt a million pounds on a female colleague. At least, he might as well have done. Weston described how Norgren made "disgusting and lewd" comments about her breasts. She sued Merrill Lynch for sexual harassment, victimisation and constructive dismissal. In an out-of-court settlement, Mrs Weston received a sum reported to be in the region of £1m.

The hangover: The Weston story is just one example of a series of recent high profile sexual harassment cases. Allison Schieffelin, a former bond trader at Morgan Stanley, won a £28m settlement from her erstwhile employees last year. There's now a serious financial imperative for men to stop being sexist pigs, especially at Christmas parties.

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