Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Filled with mistakes

Sir: In attempting to discredit Virgin and myself (`Is Branson falling?', 21 February) Edward Heathcoat Amory uses an array of facts that are just not true. One telephone call to me or our press office to check his statements before going to press would have avoided some of his worst mistakes. But perhaps he was concerned that it would spoil a good story.

Where to start? Your journalist says that our `weakness derives from the business approach that has made Virgin so successful'. He says that this business approach is to license our name in return for a cut of profits to outside companies, and that Virgin is little more than a highly adept franchising operation.

This is complete rubbish. We have management control of 100 per cent of the companies that operate under the Virgin name with the exception of the two that we've sold. We set up the companies, we find good managers, we give them a lot of freedom to manage but they report back to us.

As to other issues: despite investing 60 million over two years (generated from cash flow) in a massive improvement programme, Virgin Cinemas do not charge El more than their rivals. There is no increasing proportion of train delays. Together Railtrack and Virgin have dramatically reduced the number of delays that existed under British Rail. The Deputy Prime Minister never made a comment to me about the British paint industry. I have never walked out of an interview if asked questions of which I disapprove. I went to Tony Blair's victory party because Tony Blair himself invited me. Our lottery bid would have raised more money for good causes (the Director General said he could not take our profits for charity into account or market research showing that more people would play). I didn't buy out Cott because Virgin Cola was having problems. I bought them out as a result of the owner's death and so we could expand overseas.

And finally-to date anyway - I have never sued anyone to suppress criticism of myself or Virgin.

Richard Branson

Virgin Management Ltd,

11 Holland Park,

London W11

An honest prince

Sir: Why does Anne Critchley (Letters, 21 February) tax Prince Charles with deceit, when he has openly and courageously admitted to a fault shared by a large proportion of the population in these days of widespread marital breakdown? Like many others, he tried and failed to maintain his marriage; being a future constitutional monarch he did not have to continue to live a lie in order to retain political power, unlike US presidents.

Jennifer Miller

2 Heathview Gardens,


London SW15

It's tough down under

Sir: Ralph Berry (Letters, 14 February) must take a reality check (or a brain transplant). …

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