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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Sandra Mallon

RTE defends spending on membership at one of London's elite clubhouses

RTE has defended annual membership to a top exclusive London club – saying it is an “appropriate” place for them to have private meetings with UK clients.

Documents revealed RTE spent €4,200 for membership at The Soho House private members’ club in London.

But during an Oireachtas grilling, acting deputy director general Adrian Lynch said UK clients have a “certain level of expectation” about where they hold meetings with the broadcaster.

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Ciaran Gannon TD asked who was responsible for purchasing the membership.

RTE’S Commercial Director Geraldine O’Leary revealed she was the one who took out the annual membership.

She told the committee: “The membership is in my name, and it is done on an annual basis. Unfortunately, I joined, the membership came to me just before Covid so the reason for the membership is depending on the year, approximately five per cent of our business comes from the UK so previously we used to have offices in London in Millbank, where we would meet clients.

"We don’t have that anymore, so we avail of the opportunity to have meetings in Soho House in London when we are there with clients because we don’t have a location anymore.”

The stylish club boasts memberships for some of the world’s elite. Although not all, offer some sort of co-working space, some have gyms or swimming pools or rooftop bars where you’re all but guaranteed a spot even in the height of summer.

The original Soho House opened on Greek Street in 1995, outposts have opened from Malibu to Mumbai. Founder Nick Jones first opened the club as a space for the creative crowd who frequented his restaurant Cafe Boheme to hang out.

Babington House, a country retreat in Somerset, soon followed (along with the first Cowshed spa), before things started taking off in the early 2000s.

Now, in London alone, there are eight houses, with a ninth (Little House Balham) opened last year. Then there’s Farmhouse, Brighton Beach House, and Babington House in Somerset, and farther afield houses opened in Rome, Berlin, Mykonos, Nashville, Toronto, Hong Kong and beyond.

Asked if it was RTE’S intention to retain the membership on an ongoing basis, Mr Lynch said it will be up to incoming Director General Kevin Bakhurst whether or not they will be continuing to pay for Soho House.

But he defended RTE being a member of the club.

He said: “In terms of that, that would be one for the incoming commercial director in terms of the level of income we generate there. It is an exclusive club. It’s also in a convenient location. There’s a certain expectation dealing with UK companies. A lot of the media spend ..about 40 percent into the Irish market comes out of the UK’s bought from there.”

Ms O’Leary added: “Five per cent of our revenue comes through UK agencies but if you look at multinational clients based in the UK, that’s well over a third of our revenue is decided in the UK so it is appropriate that we have somewhere to have private negotiations.”

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