Battle of the Airlines: Heads may roll over BA dirty tricks campaign: Investors believe an executive must have sanctioned the tactics used against Virgin. Mary Fagan reports

SPECULATION continued to mount yesterday that senior British Airways executives could become casualties of its dirty tricks campaign against Virgin Atlantic and Richard Branson.

One of the company's largest institutional shareholders said it felt that the actions taken against Virgin must have gone to at least some of the directors for approval and it found it worrying that no one at the airline company had accepted responsibility.

The fund manager said: 'There are boundaries of good and bad competition and BA appears to have overstepped the boundaries of good competition and fair competition. No one at senior level in BA has owned up and taken responsibility. It was obviously a pretty severe mistake. That is a worry.'

Although he stopped short of saying that heads should roll, he added: 'Someone must have sanctioned it at director level and with hindsight that was a mistake.'

In an apology read in court on Monday by BA's counsel, Christopher Clarke QC, both British Airways and Lord King, BA's chairman, apologised for the injury caused to the reputation and feelings of Mr Branson and Virgin Atlantic by articles and letters they had published. But it was emphasised that none of BA's directors were a party to any concerted campaign.

A fund manager at another of the top shareholders in British Airways expressed concern over the possibility of further legal action by Virgin in the United States. He said the first thing was that the dust ought to settle but that the implication of a possible further lawsuit in America 'has a certain nasty tinge to it'. However much shareholders say that the board should have known what was going on, the board will say that it did not know what was going on, he said.

His feelings were that there may not be personal casualties among BA senior management. 'BA is a well-run aviation company and this is a sideshow - an unfortunate one but none the less a sideshow. As long as the capability of the people running the airline is not impaired by this then they should go on doing the job.' He added: 'On the basis of the information I have, nothing illegal has been done, in which point I am not sure heads should roll.' He also said that he did not think that confrontation between the company and its shareholders would be helpful.

Key players in other major institutions are declining to comment. It is not clear whether there will be further repercussions over who takes responsibility for the dirty tricks campaign.

Brian Basham, the public relations adviser at the centre of the controversy, said in an affidavit served on BA and Virgin Atlantic that at no time had he acted without the knowledge or approval of the British Airways board.

Extracts from a letter written by Mr Basham's lawyer said: 'The clear implication is that Brian was acting in excess of his authority whereas Lord King, Sir Colin Marshall and Robert Ayling well know, they and the company gave full authority to all his actions and it was Brian himself who played a major role in exercising restraint in what was allowed to appear in the press about Branson.'

Sir Colin Marshall, BA's deputy chairman and chief executive, has said: 'British Airways is taking appropriate action to ensure the regrettable incidents which we have identified involving our employees do not occur again.'

However, British Airways refuses to say whether that means the axe will fall on members of its staff. Nor will the company comment on the claims made by Mr Basham.

Leading article, page 20

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales - OTE £30,000

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a rapidly expanding offi...

Recruitment Genius: Support and Development Engineer

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The leading provider of Employee Managem...

Recruitment Genius: Creative Designer

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Kent based design consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Contract Inspection Engineer

£230 - £250 per day: Recruitment Genius: Ensure that all testing procedures co...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy