H&E North catches up with leading events host, speaker and auctioneer, Alex Fleming for a quickfire Q&A on his illustrious career highlights so far and his favourite auction lots.
How did you get started?
I was a livestock auctioneer for 12 years and often got asked to speak at agricultural or sport club dinners and it just snowballed from there!
That’s easy, I was speaking at and auctioning at a dinner for golfer Paul Lawrie and Sir Alex Ferguson was the other speaker. At breakfast the next morning he said he would get in touch about getting me down to Manchester United as guests at Old Trafford and had me signed up for his charity events. This brought me to the attention of the club and I now speak at, and auction at their gala events.
Most exotic location?
Most of my events are in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and London but I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to auction and host in Marbella, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Most memorable occasion?
They are all memorable in their own right, but one that stands out was when Watches of Switzerland and Rolex booked me to entertain 200 guests at a dinner at the Kimpton Fitzroy London hotel. It was just one of these special nights where the audience was so engaged, making for an excellent atmosphere in a superb venue. But a sportsman’s dinner in deepest, darkest Lanarkshire with just 150 guests can be as rewarding as often it’s their biggest fundraiser of the year.
Most nerve-wracking occasion?
That must be a dinner for HRH Princess Anne in aid of the Carers Trust in Edinburgh. It was my first royal event, and it required my best ‘telephone voice’ – but it seemed to go well as I’ve been asked to host a further four since.
Biggest audience to date?
A gala dinner in Edinburgh for Barack Obama, where 1,200 guests were in attendance. I didn’t sleep for a week with nerves, but it went well and the auction raised £500,000 from just six lots. The next year Michelle Obama came over and she was an even better speaker and the auction made just as much.
This title goes to former Manchester City and England winger Mike Summerbee. I worked with him at the annual Denis Law dinner which I host every year. His stories were hilarious and what a life he has led. He also bounced off Denis really well, and you could tell they were good friends.
Most interesting auction lot?
I get to auction many strange and wonderful lots. The dearest was a tie between a walk-on part in the film Fantastic Beasts 2 and a set tour with J K Rowling; and a day with supervet Noel Fitpatrick. Both went for £120,000, and we were able to sell them both twice, so I’m calling that £240,000!