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Bunhill: Branson fights shy

THE well-loved Richard Branson appears to have tomato juice all over his bearded countenance.

First dose came when he arrived in Dublin to launch his new tomato-juice-sans-vodka, Virgin Mary (groan groan), on Friday and realised that the name still retains a certain resonance among the Irish.

Worse was to come. As a media tycoon he was due to be interviewed by Nick Hyam of the BBC. When Hyam didn't show, Ray Snoddy, the highly respected media editor of the Financial Times, was wheeled forward. Branson refused point-blank.

Cynics believe the reason was that Snoddy might have grilled Saint Richard about how he had persuaded the Radio Authority to allow him to hold an AM as well as an FM licence - a concession that appears curiously at odds with the intention of the authority's rules.