These were the two ends of the spectrum of comment on Richard Branson’s bid to take over the ailing Northern Rock bank.
Headline writers revelled in the chance to combine the two names: ‘Virgin Rocker’ was the Dow Jones newswire offering (12 October). Branson began as the face of the ‘heavy-hitting consortium’ (as he described it). The weekend saw an appearance by Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Virgin Money’s chief executive, on Radio Five Live’s Weekend Business show. She told presenter Jeff Randall that ‘the Northern Rock brand is dead and the management tainted’ (BBC, 14 October).
The Virgin brand still has populist support, but analysts were quick to say the group has had many business failures, pointing to the merger with NTL and calling the Rock rescue bid Branson’s ‘most audacious gamble yet’ (James Harding, The Times, 13 October).
Despite early enthusiasm for Branson and his ‘deep-pocketed backers’, queries remained about his ability to find the billions for funding the bank’s mortgages and chief executive Gadhia’s ‘greatest ever baptism of fire in the field of investor relations’ (FT, 12 October).