Battle of the Airlines: PR adviser at forefront of smear tactics: Martyn Gregory reports on BA's 'dirty tricks' campaign, which he uncovered as producer/director of Thames Television's This Week programme

BRIAN BASHAM, the man at the cutting edge of the smear campaign against Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic, flew out of Britain last Friday night on a British Airways plane bound for Malawi, writes Martyn Gregory.

When he checked in, he was upgraded from economy to business class. His plans to fly economy look odd given that he made pounds 1.3m from selling his shares in Broad Street Associates, his old firm, months before it collapsed two years ago.

At his new firm, Warwick Corporate, he continues to charge large sums for his financial public relations. While most rivals act as messengers for companies, Mr Basham takes on their problems as if they were his own. He specialises in 'crisis PR'.

He is extremely close to his clients and fiercely protective of them, especially during big deals such as Argyll's failed bid for Distillers - which Guinness won - and Hanson's purchase of a 2.8 per cent stake in ICI.

His style was arguably more suited to the Eighties, when big takeovers were common, than the Nineties when companies are more interested in a continuing relationship with the press.

A classic example of his work was for the Fayed brothers in the Harrods takeover war. He spent years criticising Tiny Rowland and Lonhro through his network of contacts in the press. It is said he invented the story that the Fayeds came from an ancient Egyptian family and that they possessed plenty of inherited wealth.

The Department of Trade and Industry inspectors who reported on the Harrods affair criticised him for his role in the campaign. British Airways were in no doubt about the sort af PR they were paying for.

David Burnside, BA's director of public affairs who took him on, certainly was not in doubt. Mr Basham and Mr Burnside are good friends. They drink together and do business together. And before they started smearing Richard Branson together, they both used to work for Robert Maxwell.

When Maxwell launched the European in 1991 he paid Broad Street Associates pounds 250,000 to handle the City PR account. With BA's permission Mr Burnside was already being paid to act as media adviser on the launch.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore