Fly-by-night villain stamps out identity

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 March, 1996, 12:00am

Business journalists in Hong Kong received a curious missive recently. It came in a plain white envelope with no company name and no sender's address.

Inside was a photocopy of a recent article in the Asian Wall Street Journal which was highly critical about Boeing Corp's new 777 jet - large numbers of which have been ordered by Cathay Pacific and other airlines.

Now who would possibly have any reason to spread bad news on an airline company battling for market share in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia? The culprit may have made one little mistake. He or she put the letters through an automatic postage franking machine instead of putting stamps on it.

Postage metres leave a serial number. Remarkably, the serial number on the anonymous letter matched that of the Hong Kong office of Message Management, public relations company for Boeing's arch-rival, Airbus Industrie.

I confronted John Bailey, general manager of Message Management, with the evidence.

'I couldn't possibly confirm that it came from us,' he said with a smile.

'But given the fact that Boeing has had such a hard time generating coverage of the 777, it's nice to see someone doing their job for them.' There's a rumour going around that the Asian Wall Street Journal is refusing to run ads for the Financial Times , which launched a printed-in-Hong Kong edition on Tuesday.

'Not true,' Journal managing director Will Adamopoulos told me yesterday. 'If they bring an ad around here before deadline, I'll get it in the paper.' I tried to get a reaction from the Hong Kong advertising office of the FT, but they were in meetings. Or were they fulfilling their slogan? 'No FT. No comment.' Talking of odd media happenings . . . Robert Nield of Kotewall Road, Mid-Levels, notes that Interwood Marketing has added to its adverts.

The screen fills with the words: 'As Seen On TV.' This is ludicrous. It's like publishing a book emblazoned with the words: 'This Book Now Available In Book Form.' With brilliant timing, Gordon Wu Ying-sheung of the volatile Hopewell Holdings has been booked to give an important lecture at the University of Hong Kong tomorrow. James Rowell and other readers pointed out this irony. The lecture is about financial strategy. Mike Kardel of Ahrenkiel Shipping, yesterday called the Au Trou Normand restaurant in Carnavon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.

Kardel: My name is Kardel. I have a table booked at your restaurant for this evening which I would like to cancel and book for the same time tomorrow instead.

Staff: Ah, yes. Kardel. 7.30. Cancel and book tomorrow? Kardel: Yes.

Staff: Your name, please? Can't get tickets for the Hong Kong Film Festival? Fly to the United States, where the New York Underground Film Festival has just opened.

Last year, top of the bill was Who Do You Think You're Fooling , a documentary that accused Quentin Tarantino of nicking scenes from a Hong Kong action film and sticking them into Reservoir Dogs .

Not everyone needs US$100 million to make a watchable film. I read in The New York Times that one of this year's films, Middletown , was made by a man called Philip Botti in 33 days on Super-8 format.

This is the maximum length of time you can get a camera from Nobody Beats the Wiz, a cut-price electronics chain store in the US, and return it for a full refund. Mr Botti's company is called 33-Day Return Policy Productions.

It would not be advisable for anyone to try this production plan in Hong Kong, where if a camera falls to bits on the way out of the shop, you cannot return it. Harry Chan of Kowloon was curious about Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng's recent statement that history shows that whenever someone picks a fight with China, 'the outcome has been proven by past experiences'. Which history was Mr Li thinking of? The bit where Japan took over most of China in the late 1930s? Or the Opium War, won by the Brits in the last century? Oops. An item in Backbites , a column in this newspaper on Sunday, accused John Newnam of Drake Beam Morin of spelling someone's name wrong. Unfortunately, the attacker mis-spelt Mr Newnam's name as 'Newman' in the critique.