01 January 2000

THE GRIN’S publicity machine went into overdrive last month, leaking tantalising titbits about the forth-coming announcement in which St Richard of the Vested Virgin revealed to a hushed media scrum his scheme for the salvation of the National Lottery.

Even the Financial Times fell for the hype. The Blessed Richard, it reported breathlessly, would finance the £5m-£10m bid ‘out of his own pocket’. [Clearly the FT is gifted with second sight as to the dividing seam between Branson’s ‘own pocket’ and his maze of privately-owned offshore companies. And - ‘£5m-£10m’? Does Mr Branson construct all his business forecasts with a built-in variance of 100%?]

St Richard’s Epistle to the Media revealed that the ‘People’s Lottery’ will not be run by a charitable foundation - despite the frequent ‘not-for-profit’ claims - but as a limited company. It will be headed by John Jackson, former chief executive of Sketchley, and will choose ‘best of breed’ suppliers - although the genetic criteria were not stated. Among those already approved are J Walter Thompson and US equipment manu-facturer AWI. Others could include KPMG Consulting and BT - or not, as the case may be.