Last week, while teams of executives and lawyers thrashed out a compensation package for Virgin, Burnside was at his flat in Pimlico, central London. Across town, his former colleagues were fielding yet more awkward questions; Burnside, meanwhile, was revelling in his new-found independence.
He was on the phone putting the finishing touches to his new venture, a corporate public relations agency with the working title of Burnside & Co. Contrary to reports, he will not be joining his friend and fellow Ulsterman David Montgomery at the Mirror. Instead, he has decided to set up on his own. The new firm, he said, 'will have a low cost base and high fees' and will concentrate on serving 'international companies'.
This particular leopard will not be changing his spots. 'There are people who know me and know that I have a certain style that they can either like or dislike. It's the way I've always worked. Some call it aggressive, but I don't know any other sort of PR.'
In case that could be misconstrued as contrition, his next phrase left no doubt: 'Everything I do is about trying to win and beat the competition.'