An article South Africa’s property royalty didn’t want you to read

Pam Golding parties hard amid property pain                                                                                             

When I was editor of  lively property news and commentary provider Realestateweb (South Africa’s fastest-growing property site in 2009) I looked forward to the weekly Tabloid Tuesday column – which had a cheeky slant on industry players who took themselves very seriously. I couldn’t resist republishing one of my all-time favourites here.  Those were the days…

Chavez Still Alive but who does the kicking?

Big property sales “family” loses more than 50; Andrew Golding on “painful” strategic decisions

Those at the coalface of property sales have taken a hard financial knock, with many losing jobs at even the bigger companies in the past year. Tabloid Tuesday got a fascinating peek into how the Pam Golding Property family is getting “through this challenging time together”.’

The show must go on.  Everyone is having a hard time in these tough market conditions, is the message in GoldTalk – the in-house magazine of the Pam Golding Property group.

The front page of the latest issue is largely devoted to a pep talk from the group’s chief executive Dr Andrew Golding. He explains the rationale for “tough measures” taken to “adjust our business to cope with radically altered market conditions” including letting more than 50 people leave.

Anyone who thinks such a decision is “remotely easy”, should “think again”, says Golding. Ditto for “admirable initiatives” shelved out of financial necessity.

Every single decision was “thoroughly thought through”, with executive team members remaining “responsible, prudent and honest about the realities we are facing”. The management team, he says, has taken some “hard, painful, but ultimately strategic and necessary decisions” and is “here to support” agents and get them through this “challenging time together”.

How painful can these decisions be, we wondered out loud, as we flipped through the tabloid-size glossy? Our rhetorical question was quickly answered.

One person’s pain is another person’s pleasure. Splashed across most of the inside pages are the signs of some serious partying going on behind-the-scenes of that staid green gable.

Andrew and cousin Anthony Stroebel, PGP’s top marketing man, look a bit worse for wear at the Pam Golding Conference 2008, held on the shabby Indian Ocean resort island of Saint Anne, Seychelles.

Sweaty Andrew is on vocals, clad in red shirt and sporting a shell necklace, while an exhausted-looking Anthony is seen beating out a rhythm on a big drum on centre stage.

Other Golding delegates do a better job of grimacing through their new-found hardship. Aunty Pam and “Tanya” manage a smile for the camera as they boogy the night away with Andrew in their island regalia, while “Ronald (Ennik) & Co” also muster some enthusiasm to produce cheesy grins during their tropical toils.

“Conferencing island style!”, shows GoldTalk, entails reclining on a lounger with a large group of work pals on a sandy beach under shade cloth, while the boss chats to you against a backdrop of sparkling blue sea and hilly terrain. “With a backdrop like that, was anyone listening to the Doctor?” runs the caption.

Apparently it was difficult. An accompanying editorial tells us how delegates “spent their leisure days swimming, snorkelling or exploring the island complexes by boat”. Survivor host Mark Bayly “went way beyond the normal duties of a conference MC by hosting a Survivor-style challenge that encouraged team participation, through physical and mental abilities”.

“Relaxation and Reward were two objectives most certainly achieved, but if the number of sunrises witnessed and sleeping passengers heading back was an indicator, another week at home was probably required by most to rejuvenate.”

Ag shame. Poor, down-and-out PGP people.

Play it again, Pam. Apparently Golding has taken a similarly “painful” decision to have another event to match the Seychelles one, soon. Says Vanessa Johnson in the “all-important delegate feedback” in GoldTalk: “We had an unbelievable time and a wonderful experience; loved every minute. The time and effort put into it was all worthwhile. It was perfectly organised and we are working our butts off to make it again (this) year.”

The punishment wasn’t reserved for Pam Golding Property group old-timers, either. A Carol Reynolds is quoted as saying: “I am so thrilled I was able to attend conference as a newcomer to PGP. It was the best conference I have ever attended; my other companies’ conferences simply didn’t compare.”

Nicky Jones was in agreement, saying: “I don’t know how it could have been improved on. It definitely allowed me time to relax, meet other agents and learn from them in a fun environment. It was the experience of a lifetime; thank you is not enough.”

Ouch! Talk about rubbing salt into the wounds of those who didn’t crack the nod for the island bash and are having to tighten their belts thanks to Dr Golding’s “tough measures” in order to “cope with radically altered property market conditions”.

The P.A. group takes its name very seriously. Or at least its P. A.s do. Getting past a P.A.- aka “Personal Assistant” – to speak to one of the superior mortals in the organisation is no mean feat, we found recently.

But then, it emerged that the P.A.s are in fact the superior mortals in the PA/Betterbond corridors of power. When a Realestateweb reporter tried yet again to speak to someone in authority about the mortgage origination industry, the lady who answered the switchboard enlightened us about the way things work at 3 Mussel Road, Wedgewood Office Park, Bryanston.

“Bridget has three CEOs and directors that she’s in charge of and Barbara has got another three under her.”

Ah, so now we know. Sigh! Now if only Bridget or Barbara would deign to acknowledge calls and messages.

With all that bureaucracy and self-importance, it is little wonder the folks over at Standard Bank are feeling miffed that they’ve been giving away such hefty commissions to some originators over the years.

Write to freelance journalist Jackie Cameron at jackiecameron.uk@gmail.com.

PS: Got some property gossip, involving South Africa or the UK? I’d love to hear it!

Incidentally, that was just the beginning of the Pam Golding saga, which got some of the people involved looking even more hot ‘n sweaty than they were on the beach, we were told.

If you found the article you have just read interesting, then you will probably also enjoy one of the follow-up Tabloid Tuesdays. I’ll post some more soon.

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