“We must go back to teach Europeans to love Europe.”
– Jean Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg
Tuesday evening this week, I participated in the annual General Assembly and Christmas Cocktail of the Monaco Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (MVCA). The evening was attended by approximately 90 Members and guests, one of the largest turnouts since the inception of MVCA.
The event was held in Monte Carlo Bay Hotel at the eastern end of Monaco. The hotel is an amazing venue, with a look and feel like the most famous hotels in Las Vegas. It is set like a resort on a peninsula with several restaurants, swimming pools, a lagoon, one indoor swimming pool, casinos, shows, and an authentic prestigious night club nested on a dream-like island, renewing the spirit of the legend and splendor of the 1930s, chic and light, luxurious and relaxed, as can be expected in Monaco.
The hotel has a focus on business tourism for meetings, congresses, seminars, product launches and press conferences. It is owned and operated by the Société des bains de mer de Monaco.
The organisation hosting the evenings event, the MVCA is an independent, non-profit association of organisations, companies and individuals who are active in the private equity and venture capital community. MVCA organises and hosts events which generate deal flow, learning and networking opportunities. The organisation supports the active exchange of information among its members and represent the common voice of the Private Equity community in Monaco.
The small principality of Monaco has had a public image of glamour and jet-set lifestyle since the marriage of Prince Rainer and Princess Grace (Kelly) in the 1960s and it is a major tourist destination for this reason. With fancy restaurants and hotels, high priced sports cars and luxury vehicles at every turn, there’s no shortage of money flying around the the principality.
What many people do not know is that Monaco is also a vibrant hub for business with many successful business people from across the world living in the principality whilst travelling, working and acting on the global arena. For them Monaco is an accessible well-connected location with a mild climate, less stressful than the large cities and with good networking opportunities with other talented people. The nearby Nice airport enables people to travel without the traffic congestion and delays that are so frequent in airports like London’s Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle.
The MVCA is not only an association for people active within private equity and venture capital but also a lobby group for improving the knowledge about Monaco as a business destination.
The meeting was opened by the dynamic MVCA Chairman Zsolt Lavotha, who gave an overview of the activities MVCA organised in 2012, and reviewed some of the plans for 2013. The events in 2012 included a highly appreciated meeting with Henry Kravis of KKR and an event with Tony Cabral of Riverside.
One event that is coming up on April 11 2013 is The Edge. It will be an conference organised jointly by the International University of Monaco and MVCA where aspiring entrepreneurs will have a unique opportunity to listen to some of the worlds most successful and motivating entrepreneurs in an intimate setting.
The key speaker for the evening was Dr. Francesco Bongiovanni, who has been active in Private Equity for many years. He currently operates his own international advisory firm and he is the author of the recently published book entitled ‘The Decline and Fall of Europe‘. The book has been praised by the Wall Street Journal as the best account of the European crisis and the Guardian refers to it as a wake up call for the 21st century.
Tonight’s theme for Dr Bongiovanni´s speech was: "The European Crisis: No Way Out?" For the first time in Monaco and in front of the audience of MVCA Members and guests, Dr. Bongiovanni asked whether ‘Project Europe’ is really worth saving. According to Dr. Bongiovanni Europe stands on the brink of a monumental fall, wrestling with colossal economic, social, political and strategic challenges. Francesco revealed some hidden cracks that threaten to tear Europe apart, many of which, he claims, have been deliberately ignored by politicians for decades.
The interested reader can watch a similar speech by Dr. Bongiovanni from May 9th this year, which is available on YouTube:
I have seen Dr. Bongiovanni speak before about the same theme, at the European Family Office & Private Wealth Management Forum 2012 in Geneva on June 7th 2012. The speech then was also based on the book and equally gloomy.
The question I asked myself, and which people in the audience voiced was if the decline is inevitable or if there is something we collectively can do to improve the situation?
The big question is, what will become of the European Union? One possible road leads to the full break-up of the euro, with all its economic and political repercussions. Another possible road involves an unprecedented transfer of wealth across Europe’s borders and, in return, a corresponding surrender of sovereignty to a central European Government and strong local regions. Separate or super state based on strong regions: those seem to be the alternatives now.
The view of the European Union officials in Brussels is clear. EU launched Europe 2020, which is a 10-year strategy proposed by the European Commission on 3 March 2010 for advancement of the economy of the European Union. It aims at "smart, sustainable, inclusive growth" with greater coordination of national and European policy. We recently visited the framework for implementation of the vision in a previous blog post.