12 Nov 2007

‘… U2 (or their) representatives have had absolutely no role or involvement, directly or indirectly, in assessing bids for the (U2 Tower) project or any (adjudicating) role in the tender process…,’

… was the email I received from the Dublin Dockland Development Authority two week’s ago in answer to a question I hadn’t asked. What I’d wanted to know was how involved U2 were in the Tower project prior to the tender process, not after.

To show what I was trying to get at and to avoid the use of a lot of ‘allegedlies’ lets just pretend for a minute that the project isn’t the U2 Tower and the location isn’t Dublin. Pretend instead that the city is Bolton, Lancashire, which, as part of a regeneration project, decided some years back to name a new landmark tower after their hometown musical heroes. 

Following an exciting international architectural competition, in the way of these things bureaucracy kicked in and the project got bogged down in development. To ensure that the winning design was financially viable, detailed proposals were put to the real estate people who fretted over the comparatively small rentable floor area.

Badly Drawn Boy (you guessed it!) were, of course, more concerned with making music than with real estate speculation. Nevertheless, in the interests of protecting ‘the brand’ (just in case the project went the way of, say, the Millennium Dome) no one would have been at all surprised to discover that band members and/or advisors were kept up to speed at occasional project team meetings at the Bolton Development Authority HQ. And it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they happened to walk away from these meetings with a document or two which might, possibly, have included some numbers.

Fast forward. The Tower project goes to tender and one of the competing consortia (Ballykissangel Developments) find themselves sitting next to Badly Drawn Boy at a bash. Talk turns to the tower, and Ballykissangel wonder if Badly Drawn Boy might be interested in adding their names to the Ballykissangel ticket.

‘We’re not sure,’ say Badly Drawn Boy ‘Our advisors think that the tower, as designed, might not be a big money spinner’.

‘Don’t worry,’ say Ballykissangel, ‘we’re scrapped the original tower in favour of the all-new Badly Drawn Tower which is a guaranteed banker.’

At this point you can imagine Badly Drawn Boy - tempted - asking legal advisors how much trouble they could possibly get into if they hooked up with Ballykissangel.

‘You have two problems,’ say the advisors, ‘First, if you have any documentation from those meetings with the Development Authority containing figures which would be of use to a competing team, you’re leaving yourself open to allegations of conflict of interests. Second, we’re not in Dublin so you’ll never pass the smell test...’

…. but, back in reality, we actually are in Dublin – the city where competition rules are looser than something you’d find on the back of a box of Rice Crispies.

The scenario I’ve described above is pure fantasy and based on some thin newspaper reports. I’ve no reason whatsoever to believe that U2 aren’t anything but squeaky clean in their involvement with the Tower (they must be clean, they’re not stupid). But I’m absolutely certain that if this were happening in any other city in the western world they would have been put through their paces to prove it.

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