Take note: Virgin comes with a free lunch

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 April, 2000, 12:00am

Today's riddle: What's hairy, floats about in balloons, and concludes multi-billion dollar deals on scraps of paper? Answer: Richard Branson.

By now you're probably aware that Singapore Airlines has entered Virgin territory and acquired 49 per cent of Mr Branson's firm.

But what you may not know is how they got there.

The agreement arrived on a scrap of note paper while chief executive Cheong Choong Kong was eating lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in London just before Christmas.

This we learned of in yesterday's Straits Times.

It seems the two airline heavyweights were sitting at separate tables after a day-and-a-half of negotiations.

Mr Cheong was in the middle of his meal when Richard strolled over and handed him a note.

Sums had been doodled in the margins. Scribbled across the middle was this: 'Dear C. K. , To make your lunch more enjoyable, I'm happy to split the difference between our original positions.

'Who's paying for lunch! Kind regards, Richard.' But Mr Cheong was so excited by the note that he forgot to pick up the tab, so Mr Branson was stuck with it.

Further proof that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Everyone's heard the question 'Who polices the police?'.

It seems Hong Kong will soon have an answer.

Reader Alistair McGregor learned of this development while browsing through his latest gripping instalment of the weekly page-turner Government of the HKSAR Gazette .

It included an announcement of a call for tenders for 'Provision of security guarding services for the Hong Kong Police'.

We didn't realise our fleet of ID card-checkers felt the need for bodyguards.

Perhaps we should adjust the force motto to say: 'To be served and to be protected.' While browsing the High Court writ list, we noticed that Five Continental Trading was being sued for almost US$122,000. Their creditors are accusing them of failing to pay up.

The money-seekers are from the Chaozhou Qiaodong Tonggao 'Graft Factory'.

Times must be tough for lawyers if they've become the cheaper-than-muscle option for collecting their money.