If you’re in the financial industry, then perhaps you’ve heard of Capco, a multinational consulting firm that deals in banking, capital markets, wealth and investment management, finance risk and compliance, technology services, and package integration for financial institutions. Apparently, they are “forming the future of finance” (this according to their website). But the average man about town has probably never heard of this industry giant that opened in 1998 and was bought out by Fidelity National Information Services last year. Of course, those who live and work in Covent Garden are becoming all too familiar with Capco, a company that has recently begun to diversify by snatching up properties all around the West End hot spot. And people are starting to wonder what their plans are for the famous theatre district.
As of about a week ago, the firm had acquired nearly £700 million worth of property in and around Covent Garden, with plans to purchase more. They are currently putting out feelers concerning the historic Africa Centre on King Street, which was conceived in 1961 as a way to promote awareness and dialogue between multiple ethnicities and cultures. The centre has decided to sell their lease, it seems, although whether they are seriously considering an offer from Capco is as yet unknown (representatives seem unwilling to confirm or deny that they have reached a settlement). However, the mega-corporation has let it be known that they’re interested in the property, with the caveat that they have “no plans” pertaining to its usage. Yeah, right.
As for the current tenants of the building, they will go somewhere else (as yet undetermined) to spread the culture of Africa. Capco certainly doesn’t care. The real problem is what this could mean for the future of Covent Garden, which has long been regarded as a cultural mecca. Although the district now boasts quite a bit of shopping to attract the tourist crowd (as well as the wealthy and elite of London), it also houses a plethora of historic buildings (and history), some of the finest theatres in the city, a wide variety of food and entertainment, and a certain amount of individual flare that corporate entities cannot mimic no matter how they try.
Sadly, this corporate acquisition of properties all over the district could be just the beginning of the end. What exactly is Capco going to do with the sites they’ve already purchased? They remain mum on the subject. But it’s a good bet they have no plans to donate them to artistic and cultural pursuits. They’re a lot more likely to put in high-end stores that will earn them back the money they’ve spent and more (destroying smaller businesses in the process). And if they are successful in their venture, then hordes of soulless corporate entities could follow suit.
Although it may be too soon to speculate on Capco’s plans for Covent Garden, no one can deny that they’ve spend a pretty penny on their recent acquisitions. And despite their claims to the contrary, they almost certainly have big plans for all of it. The real question is: how much will a corporation change the face of this charmingly eclectic district? And how much are people willing to put up with before they take a stand?