Column Eight: Santa flies in late

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The Independent Online
Imagine, if you can, Lord King in the guise of Santa Claus, and the staff of his arch-enemy Virgin Atlantic as the unlikely recipients of his largesse.

Virgin boss Richard Branson plans to share the pounds 500,000 personal damages from his libel victory over the British Airways chairman among his 2,300 staff.

That means an average of pounds 217 before tax for every Virgin employee. Stunned cabin crews are wondering whether this can be the same Mr Branson who froze staff pay last year and axed the Christmas bonus.

Less fortunate than Virgin employees is Brian Basham, the bouffant-haired public relations adviser at the centre of BA's dirty tricks campaign.

Despite his legendary services in the City, Mr Basham is known as a strong supporter of Labour, offering his PR skills for free.

Not, however, for much longer. The people's party has decided to sever the Basham link in the light of his activities on behalf of the Tory peer Lord King.

Lord King and Mr Branson may soon be squabbling again, this time over a new children's toy developed by the British company Mottik.

Mr Branson is prepared to underwrite the launch of the product - a rival to Lego - believing the building blocks are an irresistible in-flight purchase for businessmen who forgot to buy their kids a present.

But who should already be test-marketing the product on its Japan routes? You've guessed it.

Touche Ross, the liquidator of BCCI, had its request to hold a creditors' meeting granted by the High Court yesterday. It has now pencilled it in for 27 May at the Wembley Arena in order to deal with the expected 5,000-strong crowd.

Given the angry mood of creditors, it is not expected to differ much in decibel level from the Iron Maiden concert that precedes it.

The bid for Owners Abroad could cost David Crossland, chairman of the predatory Airtours, more than he reckoned. His wife has become so fed up with his absence from their Lancastrian home that she has winged her way down to London.

'I've promised to take her shopping tomorrow, and no doubt she will be getting the plastic out,' bemoaned Mr Crossland. For the record, his shareholding in Airtours is worth more than pounds 100m. Poor chap.

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