People: the business diary

Michael O'Leary describes himself as unemployable in any other industry than airlines. Picture: Getty
Michael O'Leary describes himself as unemployable in any other industry than airlines. Picture: Getty
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IN TYPICAL investor AGM fashion, things took a quixotically circuitous route at spirits giant Diageo’s gathering last week.

Chief executive Ivan Menezes was lured by one private shareholder into enthusing about the commercial prospects for the Johnnie Walker maker from the upcoming Ryder Cup, given that the company owns Gleneagles hotel.

Menezes said he was looking forward to “lots of rich Americans” using the venue when they attended the event.

The private shareholder ventured innocently whether the famous hotel might provide “anything for shareholders – a cup of tea and a biscuit?”

Menezes turned to his chairman on the rostrum, Dr Franz Humer, and said: “Are you going to handle this?”

Humer smiled. “I always get the easy questions,” he said, to audience laughter.

Later Humer provoked further unwitting shareholder glee when, explaining Diageo’s moves to crack down on illegal tampering with Scotch whisky, he said the company had investigated ways of having caps that once illicitly removed from bottles “could not be put back on again”.

Bog-snorkeller’s breakfast

News that Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce is to host a Breakfast Connections event featuring Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary spread so quickly on Twitter that tickets sold out in record time prompting an extension to the initial capacity and release of more tickets.

O’Leary will be in the capital for the event at the Balmoral Hotel on 7 October, which is expected to be attended by more than 150 Edinburgh business folk.

His distinctive style was evident in the biography he supplied for the event, which reads: “Born in a stable in 1961, he was a boy genius, who excelled both academically and in sports. Having represented Ireland at bog snorkelling and flower arranging, he graduated from Trinity College in Dublin as soon as they could get rid of him.

“He became another boring KPMG accountant until divine inspiration sentenced to him to lifelong servitude in the airline business, as he is manifestly unsuitable for employment in any properly functioning industry.”

iStar of the show

Edinburgh entrepreneurs Neil Tocher and Cameron Ure have gained further plaudits for their revolutionary 360-degree iStar camera, which has now attracted the attention of Sky News.

Their company, NCTech, which builds the iStar in its Morningside workshops, was featured in a conference session produced by the broadcaster at an electronic media and entertainment exhibition and conference in Amsterdam.

Sky News’ head of technology Steve Bennedik enthused: “Virtual reality and 360 imaging is a fascinating field. The iStar is an example of emerging products which are starting to move into this space.”

He said filming could be used “at an event or protest, up a mountain, from a helicopter or drone”.

The iStar has also attracted interest from Google and film director Steven Spielberg.

Win-win for 25th birthday

Congratulations to Glasgow-based media-training company The Broadcasting Business on reaching its 25th birthday.

Boss Bill McFarlan was part of the Commonwealth Games bid team in 2007 – training dozens of folk on how to sell the city to the Commonwealth Federation. And he led the media-training of dozens of athletes before this summer’s big event.

But he confesses that his training techniques have not always worked.

“I addressed the 310 members of Team Scotland in Stirling,” recalls McFarlan, “one week before the Games started.

“I told them that it’s OK to be nervous approaching the Games, but be positive about that feeling and regard it as excitement. So when the BBC asks you how you’re feeling about these home Games, tell them ‘I’m excited!’”

The following night, one of his audience pops up on the BBC’s Reporting Scotland – and is asked how she’s feeling about the upcoming Games.

“I’m watching at home as she pauses,” says McFarlan, “and I’m willing her to say ‘excited!’”

But instead she replies: “Well I’d normally say I’m nervous… but I was told at a seminar at the weekend to say I’m excited instead.”

Guess you win some…