Like it Virgin…or not?

The Armchair Guru speaks…

I am old enough (ahem) for the name Richard Branson to still conjure up images of failed hot air balloon trips. I think that may well be the reason why I have no dream of floating in a hot air balloon, if Branson couldn’t do it then I don’t want to.

Branson is back, not that he is ever really away, in the newspapers in the UK after the Virgin Group were unsuccessful in winning a franchise bid for the West Coast main line train services. Something they have run with varying degrees of success and disaster since 1997. The franchise however was always going to be up for renewal and therefore grabs when the current contract expired sometime in December 2012.

Virgin Trains have started court proceedings to challenge and in attempt to delay the decision made by the UK government. Clearly they thought they had it in the bag.

It was however less than a year ago Virgin acquired a fallen bank, Northern Rock, for a song and at a great loss to the tax payer.

I did not hear Richard Branson piping up about the bad deal for tax payers with his banking gain last autumn. Yet with his train loss that is a key feature of his discontent and appeal in getting the public sympathy.

Is the loss of the West Coast main line franchise simply a case of sour grapes?

Is this simply a case of balance being redressed, you win some and lose some. But if you have the money you fight in courts to battle it out, delay and save your face a little when it doesn’t go your way…? It seems that this is increasing in fashion.

Litigation has always been easily accessible by those who have the cash to fight, protect or make claim…think super injunctions, think Apple vs. Samsung, Microsoft vs. the rest of the world…are just happening more.

It does feel like money can make law, or at least apply law in your favour or at least be used to your advantage.

I am not sure if this is an abuse or unfair bias of having money and legal teams at ones disposal.

It is a legitimately and oh so middle class way to fight. It would be interesting if Virgin Group decided to get their supporters to march for ‘Keep the West Coast main line a Virgin Zone,’ through the streets of every city in the UK one Saturday in September! Sadly this is not how business is done, would be fun if it was, don’t you think?

The short cut is the ‘chuck money’ at it approach. A theory I have no issue with as such, but this ever increasing world of twisted litigation is what I do have issue with.

From the family fights on the X-factor when little Jane has been told it’s 4 ‘no’s’, to the ambulance chasers, the celebrity super injunctions (equivalent of holding your hand over someone’s mouth to keep them from talking!) to the corporate giants who ‘sue’ just because they can, it seems we are in a time when we can’t accept what we were not expecting/demandingIf we feel we haven’t won and things haven’t gone our way as we wanted and demanded then it is all about the fight…reason got left behind somewhere along the way!

We all love stamping our feet and saying, ‘it’s not fair.’ Self-belief is important but at what cost and with what blindness and control? If you need to be right and think everyone else is wrong then the energy of the fight is all you have.

Let’s take a look…

I guess for Branson this lack of deal signals the end of Virgin Trains, but surely Branson knows more than anyone that everything comes to an end eventually. It doesn’t matter if it is dreams of hot air ballooning round the world or revolutionising the record industry … there is always a time when it comes to an end.

I cannot see where a law has been broken. I am sure the technical legal types will be able to share the contractual unfairness of this decision, but in a bidding situation you are always going to get a winner.

Even with the 150,000+ ‘public signatures’ to a petition started by Virgin agreeing and supporting the proposition that the government decision was wrong, doesn’t in my perception, warrant a case of, law has been broken.

I am pretty sure that the Northern Rock decision would have had more signatures against Branson getting a bank on the cheap, while leaving the accrued bank debt with the tax payer.

Nothing I have seen from the Virgin group gives specifics about process of the bid being ignored or flouted. That is not to say that haven’t been but the lack of fact, evidence or even the questions on process that they have, are quite telling.

The outlook

I don’t know where this will go and in the end the people who suffer will be the tax payer and the train passenger.

Yes, Branson as you say you don’t feel the current government decision offers value for money for the tax payer, your court proceedings hurt the purse of the very same person you purport to be incensed on behalf of.

Now given a choice I would always travel Virgin trains but avoid the toilet, having once had the toilet door open on me mid flow once and on a busy train. (I thought I had locked it but you had to shut the door with a press of a button and then press lock, like d’oh…but apparently a phenomenon for Virgin passengers, sadly and embarrassingly!)

This isn’t about loving or hating one train provider.

This is about the lack of acceptance and the culture of litigation. It is just seen as a more acceptable then neighbours screaming at each other and not learning how to cooperate. To me it is not any different, the same energy of I want to win, I want to be right.

It seems the expectation of needing to win and be right is all too consuming. The fight for not getting one’s own way is taking away the magic of ‘things don’t always go in the way we want, learn to co-operate with what has happened and move on!’

What do you think?

Is Branson really fighting for the tax payer or is his real interest his shareholders and investors?

Is he a bad loser and a casualty of the energy and culture of I will throw all my resources and fight?

Surely the more ‘uniting’ way to behave would be to say, OK it’s done, let’s learn, let’s share what hasn’t worked in this process and move on. That is unless a real law has been broken…and even then you can still more often than not have choice to move on.

Why keep fighting? Branson does do some amazing work for both country and planet but this feels like a hiccup that he may have best chosen to have in private.

photo credit: R~P~M via photo pin cc
photo credit: mattbuck4950 via photo pin cc

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Sarupa Shah
Sarupa Shah is The Celebrities Soul Agent and owner and founder of The Soul Agency . The Soul Agency works with entrepreneurs and leaders across the globe who want to put soul and spirit back to where it matters and create a legacy of love for the planet, starting with their business and bank balance! To visit her blog click here Sarupa writes about business, money and politics giving them a spiritual, twist, shake and stir. (If you sign up to The Soul Agency you will get a free eBook - 31 Money Affirmations...!) Sarupa lives in London and loves being a vegetarian and has a passion for eating!