Last word

Sir Richard Branson had the last laugh after the Australian Grand Prix as his sponsored cars finished tops.
Last word
By Joanne Bladd
Fri 10 Apr 2009 04:00 AM

Sir Richard Branson has last laugh at Australian GP.

Sir Richard Branson was wearing a bigger grin then usual after the Australian Grand Prix, in which his Virgin-sponsored Brawn GP cars finished first and second. And no wonder. It appears that the Virgin has done the deal of the decade.

According to SportsPro magazine, Branson has guaranteed the team $30m for the 2010 season — in return for sole commercial rights to the car. In other words, Virgin can sell as much sponsorship as it wants on the F1 car, and keep all the cash.

Most experts estimate Virgin will sell at least $50m of sponsorship, meaning that it will actually make $20m out of the deal. As Branson himself told reporters at the race: “Sporting activities... haven’t cost [me] any money as I always got someone else to sponsor it. So I am a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to these things, and make everything pay its way. We have other ways of getting our name out.”

In fact, the deal seems to get better by the minute. It is reported that Branson paid only $250,000 to sponsor the first two races in Australia and Malaysia.

And the payback? SportsPro says the Virgin Group achieved global TV coverage worth $10.4m at the Australian Grand Prix according to the Margaux Matrix Digital Eye scanning system that analyses the F1 TV feed.

Plane talk

Anyone who has been on the new Emirates A380 will have been amazed by the interiors. Impressive stuff, from showers in First Class to a customised bar in Business Class. But I suspect that once Prince Alwaleed’s own private A380 is completed next year, the Emirates plane will look more like an Air Arabia flight.

Having spent $320m on the purchase in November 2007, the Saudi Prince is believed to have invested another $175m on fitting out the inside of the aircraft.

Details are top secret. However, my sources suggest that one of the main ‘themes’ being considered is a waterfall feature, to resemble his own Kingdom Resort just outside Riyadh.

The Prince is a huge fan of outdoor living, and is thought to want something similar for the inside of his new plane. On top of this, the A380 is expected to include a private movie theatre for his guests.

I presume cost is no issue — with a shade over $17bn, Prince Alwaleed is still by some distance the world’s richest Arab.

Fine performance

Gracing our Power List for the first time this year was Wigan’s premiership star Amr Zaki. And I suspect it may be the last time. The Egyptian striker returned to his club late after international duty, prompting his boss Steve Bruce to declare: “I really am at the end of my tether with him. Before this latest incident, Zaki had already been fined considerably more than the average person in Britain earns in a year and he’ll now face another heavy fine. I have already fined him the maximum allowed but this just seems to have no effect.”

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