What price Prestige?

This is the second article I wrote on the Bristol park kiosk scandal, this time in 2012 as I looked deeper into the physical building side of things. Again, I present it unedited (the occasional inline annotation aside), and draw your attention to both the previous article begun in 2011, and to the recent overview as published by The Bristolian.

What price Prestige? Bristol’s kiosk scandal goes international

One day, the project manager came to take some measurements and told me about those plans…

So said Christophe Moron, proprietor of La Bonne Crepe pancake van, to Bristol’s Evening Post back in February 2011.

As I have previously blogged, Monsieur Moron had leased his pitch on Castle Park from Bristol City Council for three years. The council plans which so surprised him involved the establishment of a number of permanent kiosks at parks across the city. He was not advised about this development until his chance conversation with the project manager – and had only days to submit a bid for the new lease.

“When I asked why no one had contacted me, his reply was ‘we advertised the tender in the Evening Post, you should have looked,’” continues M Moron in the article. “‘We want to maximise our investment.’”

At the time this seemed simply to be a simple statement of fact from an officer of the council, if somewhat callously expressed. The irony of this drive for greater revenue is that the operators chosen to run the six kiosks in Bristol’s parks, Diamond Catering, went bust within months, leaving workers without jobs and council cafés shuttered at great expense to the city.

REVEALED – the park keeper connection

But a suspicious subtext has now emerged – it appears that the ‘project manager’ in question was one Alberto Palmerio.

Anglo-Italian Palmerio, who was privately educated in Dorset, worked for nine years in the Parks Department, having joined Bristol City Council in 2002. He left in October 2011.

Meanwhile, in mid-October 2011, the Diamond-operated kiosks across Bristol were without warning closed down. On 21 October Diamond filed for insolvency.

Yet before this had happened, before even Mr Palmerio had left his job with Bristol City Council, he registered a new company, AP2 (20011) Ltd, of which he was sole director. He describes it as a “Consultancy and Agency Service”.

The Italian job

Since November 2011 Mr Palmerio has also been an authorised UK agent for Prestige Kiosks Limited, “the exclusive distributor in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for Asteco Industria Srl, Italy’s leading designer and manufacturer of bespoke steel kiosks and modular buildings.”

Tabacchiera/Asteco boilerplate on the St George Park kiosk

Prestige Kiosks agent Alberto Palmerio makes his mark on the kiosk in his old council stomping ground of Castle Park

Prestige Kiosks agent Alberto Palmerio makes his mark on the kiosk in his old council stomping ground of Castle Park

You may recognise some of the products shown on their website, because Prestige is the company which supplied the kiosks paid for by Bristol’s Council Tax payers, installed in Bristol’s parks, and operated on behalf of Bristol City Council by Diamond Catering. In fact, not only are there photographs on the Prestige website of the same type of kiosks as those in Bristol, there are photographs of three of the actual kiosks located in the city – at Castle Park, Canford Park and Oldbury Park…

Canford Park kiosk - from the Prestige Kiosks website

Canford Park kiosk – from the Prestige Kiosks website

Castle Park kiosk - from the Prestige Kiosks website

Castle Park kiosk – from the Prestige Kiosks website

Oldbury Park Estate kiosk - from a Prestige Kiosks brochure

Oldbury Park Estate kiosk – from a Prestige Kiosks brochure

A family affair

Prestige is run by four directors. Two are members of the Tabacchiera family, which also operates Asteco Industria itself: Massimo Tabacchiera founded and remains the President of Asteco Industria (and is also a patron of the arts), whilst Eleonora Tabacchiera is listed as “Advisor”.

Completing the quartet in charge of Prestige are Alessandra Donadelli, a graduate of St Andrews and former analyst at Merrill Lynch, and a man who may be her grandfather, Dr Alvaro Donadelli, who started the company in early 2010 and acts as Managing Director. The Tabacchieras each hold 25% stakes, with Papa Donadelli controlling the rest.

So, a cosy, moderate-sized enterprise put together by two Italian families, right? Well, not quite. Dr Donadelli was formerly a director of both Eni International Resources Limited (EIR) and Eni Aog Limited. These are two British-registered multi-million pound businesses connected to Eni SpA, an Italian multinational oil and gas corporation – Italy’s biggest company, and worth a staggering £109 billion. In case you are missing the point, current EIR director Marco Talamonti holds 55 British directorships, all of them subsidiary or otherwise linked to Eni SpA.

Of course, one question remains hanging in the air – when Alberto Palmerio told Christophe Moron “we want to maximise our investment”, was he speaking for Bristol City Council, or for himself and his business associates?

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