In the Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street, Hollywood put about
the myth that Santa Claus exists and that he was Dickie
Those of a tender disposition can be forgiven for believing such a story
because there’s no one who can do a tear-jerker like old Dickie. Given
half a chance, he could probably convince some people that Harriet
Harman is the patron saint of single mothers.
But we know who the real Santa Claus really, really is. It’s Richard
Branson, of course, and it’s not just prima-facie evidence such as the
beard. In fact, superficially, Branson doesn’t appear to be a very good
candidate for the role of Santa Claus. His inability to stop the balloon
going up unannounced, never mind his complete failure so far to
circumnavigate the globe on his own hot air must have been troubling to
But now the evidence is really overwhelming. No one but Santa Claus
would have given his radio station away to Chris Evans, someone who
couldn’t even manage to hold down a job at the BBC, a place where people
of quite modest talents seem to stay and even prosper.
Next Christmas, Richard Branson could silence the doubters by giving
Virgin Atlantic to Freddie Laker and Virgin Rail back to the government
because of the slight misunderstanding that Virgin was supposed to run
the trains better than British Rail.
In case there are still cynical wretches out there who refuse to believe
that Richard Branson is Santa Claus it is necessary in the cause of
intellectual honesty to look to see whether there are any rational
business reasons for the extraordinary Virgin-Ginger merger.
It has to be immediately conceded that there is only one person in the
UK who knows almost as much as Richard Branson about getting free
publicity for one’s own business interests and that is Chris Evans. When
things get tough, he is even prepared to sacrifice himself and go
drinking with Gazza.
It equally has to be admitted that now Evans is a multi-millionaire
gaffer there is a greater chance that he will turn up for work seven
days a week if necessary.
There is also the additional attraction that, should Richard Branson’s
two-way libel action with Guy Snowden, the boss of the lottery company
G-Tech which promises to be the legal hit of the year, drag on
interminably in the High Court next month, then Chris Evans could stand
in as global balloonist. He might not attract quite as many cameramen to
Morocco as Richard Branson but it would be close enough to avoid
seriously damaging either of their business interests.
There is also an international trend of sorts for jugglers and clowns,
particularly the clowns, to want to take over the circus.
Such arguments don’t amount to much. If Richard Branson were not Santa
Claus then it is obvious he would have gone ahead with his original plan
to merge with Capital - serious grown-up people who know about business
and commercial radio, even if they haven’t got any reindeer.
Raymond Snoddy is media editor of The Times.