Dear Aunt Agatha,
I need respect. People say that £3bn ought to be enough, but they’re wrong. I don’t need cash to buy companies that give me personal publicity. I keep that kind of money in the change dish on my hall table. No, I want to be alongside well-thought of guys like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Instead I’m regarded as a cheapskate dilettante, only interested in media publicity. It’s respect I need, not money. I can get more coverage simply by buying into success and putting my name on it. How many people know it was Burt Rutan who won the X-Prize with SpaceShip One? He’s never been heard of since, because I put my name and brand on SpaceShip Two, so everyone thinks it was all my idea.
My 1971 imprisonment for tax evasion didn’t stop my knighthood, did it? The record disappeared just as if I’d used the same invisible ink that got me convicted in the first place. My brand is worth money, and I need to trade it for adulation. It succeeded with pop music (for a time), with planes (except budget airlines), and with trains (aided by dollops of public money). And when the brand didn’t succeed, as with cola, cars, publishing, clothing, bridal wear, vodka, and cosmetics, I usually managed to dump the losses on others, while taking credit and cash for the good ones.
I loved stinging my rival airline for a £271m fine for price-fixing, while I got off scot-free by shopping us both and claiming immunity. I beat them to fully flat beds in business class, and it was a mere technicality that mine, while fully flat, reclined at 30 degrees, so people slid off them in the night. And I rebut charges of assault against female staff and stars I’ve worked with by pointing out that I’ve always been a “hands-on” manager.
I want to be regarded as a business heavyweight, not just a self-seeker. How can I get people to look up to me?
(signed) “Sir Headline Grabber.”
Dear “Sir Headline Grabber,”
I’ve checked you out, and can confirm that you need a make-over. People are tired of you. You’re too predictable, and that’s dull. You’ll go for any story to get your photo up front. You were fun for a time when you had talented designers build and pilot your balloons and speedboats while you took credit, but everyone’s tired of hearing you say “I’ll be in space within two years” for the past 14 years.
I suggest you do unpredictable and risqué things. Why not extend the brand to funerals, with a photo of you in a coffin to launch the service? A slogan such as “There’s no better coffin to carry you off in” could appeal to the popular and vulgar bad taste that you share.
Look, you’re never going to be respectable, so try to shock people instead with bad taste. In your case that shouldn’t be too difficult.