MEDIA: Dear Saint Rick - many thanks for the radio station

In the Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street, Hollywood put about the myth that Santa Claus exists and that he was Dickie Attenborough.

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

children everywhere.

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.


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