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Correspondent’s week

This week by freelance finance writer Sarah Modlock.

A majestic start to the week when I visit the offices of the Crown Estate to interview chief executive Roger Bright. A former colleague of mine in regulatory days, Roger now has one of the most deliciously challenging and fascinating jobs in the world.

I am interested to learn that the Crown Estate came about as the result of a financial arrangement. George III agreed that the Crown lands would be managed on behalf of the Government and the surplus revenue would go to the Treasury. In return, the king would receive a fixed annual payment, known today as the Civil List.

In 1760, there was little money to be made and George was on to a good thing. Fast forward to the 21st Century and the profit made from managing the Crown Estate is very regal indeed. Last year, its surplus was 185m, every penny of which went into the public purse, via the Treasury.

Even the staunchest republican would have a tough time arguing the cost-benefit analysis now that the monarch’s end of the deal is worth around 36m. Just show me the IFA who would not fancy the renewal commission.

My interview with Roger is for glossy Square Mile magazine, a monthly which delivers achievable hedonism for those who live in the real world and does not assume we all wake up to a seven-figure windfall every February.

Indulgence is firmly on the menu next day when I am taken to lunch at The Connaught by one of my career mentors. Do go there if you get the chance. The venison is sublime. We discuss the latest addition to my CV – a book about managing money which is due to be published in the next couple of months by Hodder & Stoughton. It is aimed at 20-somethings who want to get a grip on their finances although this has come as a disappointment to several people who, on hearing I was writing a book, assumed it would be racy memoirs or a bodice-ripper. Perhaps it is time for a chat with my literary agent.

Home in time for tea and deadlines. My column for the finance pages of Yahoo is enormous fun to write. Not many financial hacks get the chance to throw 1,000 words a week at anything from venture capital trusts to buying diamonds or online gambling pitfalls to identity theft. This week is all about saving money by being energy-efficient. I also start researching next week’s column on gym membership rip-offs and some features on mortgages. Never a dull moment.

Later in the week, I exchange long emails with the wonderfully irrepressible David Elms. We discuss how IFA Promotion’s website is going from strength to strength with the industry, media and customers alike (my words, not his) and the long-awaited Kate Bush album.

Chase de Vere’s Nick Gardner and Citigate’s Kevan Reilly (“Journos defect for PR shilling, shock”) get in touch to arrange lunch and dinner although they will not be happening on the same day – I’m not that hard core. Bang goes my vague notion of a fizz-free January.

Being a summer baby, I do not take much convincing that seasonal affective disorder is just one grey sky away during these short winter months. For seasonal succour, I book a trip to Marrakech where my friend Clare and I will immerse ourselves in culture, sunshine and spa.

Thank goodness the Inland Revenue is on hand to bring me down to earth witha reminder of how much tax I must pay at the end of this month. My contribution to the Treasury coffers may not be Crown Estate-sized but it seems like a king’s ransom.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: or telephone: 020 7970 4776


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