Oct 3 - Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson says his company may bid once more to run the U.K.'s most lucrative railroad asset as he does more than just set the news agenda as guest global editor at Metro. Conway G. Gittens reports.
When Richard Branson agreed to serve as the guest global editor of the free daily Metro, he had no idea he would be the news. The head of the Virgin empire scored a major victory on his home turf. The U.K. government scrapped a deal that would have taken away Branson's control of the most lucrative railway property in the country. For now his contract to run the West Coast Main Line, through Virgin Trains, stands. Branson reacted to the decision after an editorial meeting in New York. SOUNDBITE: RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It looks like they're going to re-bid the process. If it's a fair and open process, we'd be happy to be part of that bidding situation. And I think in the meantime, Virgin, you know, will certainly be happy, the team at Virgin, will be happy to continue to run it in the same way they have done for the last ten years whilst the bidding process takes place." The 13-year contract is worth billions of dollars. Branson says he wasn't prepared to let this one go without a fight. SOUNDBITE: RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We have completely turned around the West Coast Mainline from one of the most dilapidated railway lines in the world to one of the best. We tripled the number of passengers from 10 million to over 30 million. And we've got a great team of people. We didn't want to see all that go to waste." But the U.K. rail deal wasn't the only thing on Branson's mind as he prepared for Thursday's edition. The business tycoon says whoever takes the White House needs to focus on small business as a way to strengthen the economy. SOUNDBITE: RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP (ENGLISH) SAYING: "What we need governments to do is encourage small business, like my deputy editor here, to set up businesses. Jobs are created by small businesses. The wealth of the nation is largely created by small businesses maybe becoming big businesses one day." He should know - Branson has grown Virgin from an independent music label into a global business conglomerate ranging from an airline to mobile phones, and now he can add media baron - if only for a day. Conway Gittens, Reuters