Cannes Jewel Heist: Event Planners Discuss Possible Fallout

2:07 AM PST 07/31/2013 by Rhonda Richford
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The Carlton Intercontinental in Cannes, where $136 million in diamond jewelry was stolen by a lone gunman

"We will be going back to the city of Cannes and making clear the level of crime needs to be capped,” says Cannes Lions CEO Philip Thomas.

PARIS – Following a heist of historic proportions at the Carlton Hotel, Cannes security may be on high alert. But organizers of MIPCOM, the next big high-profile entertainment industry event that will see TV executives from around the world descending upon the Croisette for dealmaking Oct. 7 to 10, say they aren't planning any major changes.

“Let’s be clear that this is a large-scale theft of diamonds, which is not what happens with our delegates -- it’s a big difference,” said Peter Rhodes, managing director of conference planner Reed Midem. "We always work closely with Cannes police and hotel security to ensure the security of our guests."

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The value of the diamond jewels stolen from luxury hotel Carlton Intercontinental in Cannes by a lone gunman was raised to $136 million, a record heist for France, according to authorities. The thief took off with 34 pieces Sunday.

At MIPCOME, Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will be honored as personality of the year, and he and other attendees shouldn’t anticipate any impact from the theft, Rhodes emphasized.

“We are concerned when we hear about crimes and do take action if we feel the security of our delegates might be impacted, but what happened this weekend was a very sort of peculiar, very specific theft,” Rhodes said. “It could have happened anywhere, it just happened to take place in Cannes.”

The uniqueness of such a large amount of gems being casually guarded by what has been reported in French media as only three unarmed security guards, did come as a shock to many that work on high-profile events in Cannes, though.

A representative of the Grand Hotel told The Hollywood Reporter that the hotel routinely brings in extra, very visible security for big events, such as those that take place during the annual film festival. And jewelry brands that routinely hold client shows travel with their own security for private showings that usually last just a day or two -- unlike the month-long, highly publicized exhibit that was hit at the Carlton this weekend.

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“The brands generally work with their own security agencies that travel with them all around the world,” said Laura Goudain of ADR Productions, a Cannes event planning company that organized an exclusive event for a big jewelry brand’s top clients at a South of France hotel just last week. “They came with more than 15 guards that stayed very close to the items, and they are not the kinds of guys you want to joke around with, that’s for sure.”

Goudain is already planning MIPCOM parties and believes it won’t have an impact on the annual content conference that’s better known for its evening beachside cocktail receptions than its big-time bling. “For advertising and television events, they generally don’t own these risky items,” she said.

Event planners and executives alike drew a distinction between the headline-grabbing robbery this weekend and the lower-level crime wave that took place on the streets of the city during the film festival this year.

Cannes Lions CEO Philip Thomas, who just came off a highly successful advertising industry conference with celebrities such as Conan O’Brien, Jack Black and Sean “Diddy” Combs making their way to the Palais to talk about social media and engaging audiences, reflected on the overall crime in the city.

"There are two parts of this, those really high-profile events that happened at the film festival and this theft from the jewelry show, which is less of an issue for us, because we don’t have quite that level of jewelry at our festival," he said.

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"But crime in Cannes is an issue,” he acknowledged, noting the crime spree that took place during the film festival and additional reports of thefts during the Cannes Lions event in June. “Cannes attracts people from all over the world, and it unfortunately attracts a criminal element. We will be going back to the city of Cannes and making clear the level of crime needs to be capped.”

“I think they’ll be extremely concerned after the theft this weekend and security and crime prevention will be very high,” he added, describing city officials as “very cooperative.”

While citywide security will be under a microscope, ironically the beloved Carlton where this weekend's heist happened may be least affected of all.

“MIPCOM is a very big event and very well-organized, and there are a lot of clients that need to be here,” said an event planner who handles lavish parties during the MIP events in spring and fall as well as film festival in May. “It won’t affect the festival business. It might affect the Carlton for the high-end rich clients that stay there during the summer, but accommodation at the Carlton for Cannes and for MIPCOM is so in demand they could fill it ten times over.”

Added that event planner: “Executives can’t miss it, and it won’t affect anything. It will be forgotten about within a week. It’s a very one-off thing. How many people come to Cannes with a hundred million euros worth of diamonds?”

Nathalie Dubois, whose company puts on high-profile gifting suites in Hollywood, Toronto and at the Cannes Film Festival annually, vows to keep her event at the Carlton: “We’ve always felt a high level of safety, and I’m sure that after what happened they will be even more careful next year.”
 

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