What recession? AIB fat cats splash cash at Ascot
Dozens of wealthy AIB bankers enjoyed a lavish jaunt to the Ascot Races -- as millions of Irish taxpayers continue to struggle in the grip of the credit crunch.
The bailed-out bank splashed out on a €20,000-a-day private box entertaining guests at the royal race meeting near London last week.
Top chef Richard Corrigan was also present as AIB fat cats soaked up the sun and enjoyed lavish hospitality in the €600,000-a-year box.
Guests partied their way through champagne and fine food in the exclusive quarters, while waiting staff and hostesses attended to their every need. The troubled bank also invited hundreds of guests along to the opening day of the event. And despite claims that this was the last year that bankers would live it up at the festival, AIB bosses are planning to throw the shindig again next year.
The exclusive box was finished to the highest standard and had plasma screens for guests to watch the race, silver-service dining and a private balcony that offered fantastic views of each race.
Guests lapped up five-star luxury in the box, enjoying a champagne reception, a complimentary bar and specially prepared luncheons complemented by fine wines, while cars were hired to ferry them to and from the course.
The box was at the same enclosure where famous faces such as Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Eddie Jordan also indulged in the festivities.
This weekend, a spokesperson for AIB declined to comment on the party, save to say: "AIB (GB) has a long-standing relationship with Ascot Racecourse, including co-funding the 2005 grandstand redevelopment and a 2006-2010 founding partnership, which concludes on June 30, 2010."
He said that apart from the "private corporate box", AIB also hosted hospitality for 230 people on the opening day of Ascot. "For the past two years, this has been used to host the Allied Irish Bank (GB) Charity Day; providing over 25 charities with an opportunity to thank their key stakeholders and assist with their longer-term fundraising."
Royal Ascot is a major event on the British social calendar, attended daily by the queen, who arrives in a horse-drawn carriage. AIB (GB), the UK-based corporate arm of the bank, invested €3.37m in a five-year sponsorship package for the prestigious event back in 2005.
However, the bank confirmed to the Sunday Independent that it was planning to hold the exuberant event again next year. For its multi-million investment, AIB (GB) is entitled to a host of privileges, including signage rights at the jumps or in the winner's enclosure. Sponsors are also entitled to a corporate box, depending on how much their contract is worth.
At the time the deal was signed, corporate literature from AIB (GB) declared that becoming a founding partner of Ascot was a "natural progression" for the bank, given its horse-racing connections.