We should be lauding Branson, not lashing out - Jim Duffy comment

It is time to hate Sir Richard Branson, eh?

Maybe we should toast Branson’s multi-billionaire status and simply wish him well, Duffy suggests. Picture: Frazer Harrison.
Maybe we should toast Branson’s multi-billionaire status and simply wish him well, Duffy suggests. Picture: Frazer Harrison.

It is time to resent the fact that he lives on his own island. It is time to get stuck in about him for not paying his taxes in the UK and choosing to pay them elsewhere. It is time to stick the knife into him as he is a man who loved the good times and the PR that gave him constantly as he fronted his stable of companies under the Virgin brand. It is time to ­persecute him and hold his feet to the fire as his empire teeters on the edge.

Yes, let’s all wish Branson the worst luck as he looks weak and asks for our money to save his businesses across the globe. Well, maybe not just yet… there is in fact a flip side to this. Maybe it is time to support Branson.

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After all, he has created 70,000 or so jobs globally. Maybe it is time to think about all those hard-working cabin crew and pilots, administration staff and so on, who could lose their jobs if we do not support him. Perhaps, rather than despise him for his love of PR and his beautiful life on his island, we should celebrate a human being who took risks, worked hard and built something special.

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Maybe we should toast his multi-billionaire status and simply wish him well and good health as he works day and night to save jobs and investors’ money. Wherever you sit on this, it is not a healthy binary. Not healthy at all.

Branson is one of these unique ­creatures that inhabit the Earth. He has been supremely lucky, artfully skilful and pioneering. He is a maverick, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist and a family man. Of course, he is a businessman and he is not in business to make losses. So, he has created wealth.

Some of it will no doubt be in cash in the bank or indeed bars of gold, but a lot is tied up in his massive and complex business ventures. Ventures that involve other governments, other airlines, capital houses, private investors and institutional investors. In short, many have much to lose if Branson loses.

Resentment

But I’m not sure we should want him to lose. This ­current pandemic that is killing our loved ones and debilitating lifestyles is in danger of creating unhinged resentment of those who have.

By this I am referring to those with over £250 million and who appear on the Sunday Times Rich list. Some of them are being very clever. They throw some of their wealth around and support a newspaper in its quest to help the NHS. Some are being very stupid and making schoolboy errors in judgement as they mess around with staff and create negative headlines for themselves.

But, in general, many are keeping under the radar, managing their businesses and hoping that in a year or so, all will be well. But Branson is different. As he is the face of the Virgin empire, he is constantly wheeled out at launch events and often has plenty to say as he embarks on new stuff. He cannot escape the media, and he uses it well to make hay.

But, as he seeks public money for his private ventures, I feel he is hitting the wrong notes. And while I am in awe at what he has achieved in life, I question his tactics on securing bailouts, while putting his home up for collateral. That is just my opinion though, and while I reserve the right to voice it, I can be liable to falling into the “hater” camp.

And this is where many of us could end up with many successful businesspeople and leaders if we are not careful. Jobs, livelihoods and families are at stake if the likes of Virgin Atlantic goes bust. None of us want this really, no matter what our view is on Branson.

Certainly I, like many, would like to see him stick a bit more cash in from his back pocket. But I don’t want to see him go under just because it is good sport for others. Is now not a time to support businesses, save jobs and create goodwill for the future?

Let’s try to keep a sense of balance in all of this, whatever you think of Branson.

Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special

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