Branson PHOTO

Donald Trump wrote Richard Branson a scathing letter in 2004

Thirteen years before Richard Branson called President Donald Trump “an embarrassment for the world,” Trump sent the Virgin Group founder a letter telling him that his new television show was destined to fail, and that he questioned the legitimacy of his billionaire status.

In Branson’s new memoir, “Finding My Virginity,” Branson published the letter and his response in full. Trump’s letter, dated November 12, 2004, is below.

“Dear Richard:

I see that you are trying to take me on with your nasty comments, much the same way as Mark Cuban had tried. As you know, Mark went down in flames, his show was unceremoniously cancelled, never to return again. In any event, now that I have watched your show, I wish you came to me and asked my advice — I would have told you not to bother. You have no television persona and, as I found out with others a long time ago, if it’s not there there’s not a thing in the world you can do about it.

At least your dismal ratings can now allow you to concentrate on your airline which, I am sure, needs every ounce of your energy. It is obviously a terrible business and I can’t imagine, with fuel prices etc., that you can be doing any better in it than anyone else. Like television, you should try to get out of the airline business too, as soon soon as possible! Actually, I wonder out loud how you can be anywhere close to a billionaire and be in that business. Perhaps the title of your show, The Rebel Billionaire, is misleading?

In any event, do not use me in order to promote your rapidly sinking show — you are a big boy, try doing it by yourself!


Donald J. Trump”

In November 2004, Branson’s reality competition show, “The Rebel Billionaire,” had debuted to poor ratings. After “The Apprentice,” NBC’s reality show built around Trump, became a runaway hit in early 2004 — with an average of around 20 million viewers — the other networks looked to capitalize on the dramatic combination of “Survivor” and the business world that NBC’s series nailed.

ABC tried a six-episode series that fall with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban called “The Benefactor” that was received poorly and received low ratings in 2004 of around 5 million viewers. It was canceled shortly before Fox’s attempt with Branson pulled any barely more viewers and was also lampooned by critics.

It turned out that a charismatic billionaire host like Cuban or Branson wasn’t enough to engage viewers. Trump relished their failures, which he interpreted as validation of his own series’ success, and made his thoughts known to the public. While the ABC and Fox shows were flopping, the second season of “The Apprentice” drew around 16 million viewers per episode.

The day before “The Rebel Billionaire” premiered on November 9, Branson appeared on Neil Cavuto’s Fox News show. Cavuto told Branson that he had seen allegations that Branson’s show was a copycat of Trump’s, and asked him how he was different from Trump as a businessman.

“I think that people will find that the two things are completely and utterly different,” Branson said, adding that he and Trump had “a very different approach to the way we run our businesses.”

“I mean, I think Donald is very much the suited man, who, you know, has his boardrooms and I think a sort of fairly ’80s approach to business,” Branson said. “I’d like to think that we have a 21st century approach to business. I’m out and about. Never sit behind a desk.”

Two days after “The Rebel Billionaire” had a poor debut, Trump was ready to talk.

“I don’t know the guy, but I think he’s got zero personality and zero television persona,” Trump told the New York Post.

According to Branson’s book, the two had actually had lunch at Trump Tower in the early 1990s, at Trump’s invitation, after Branson met Trump’s daughter Ivanka at the Business Traveler Awards in London. In the book, Branson wrote that he didn’t hear from Trump until the battle of the TV shows, but they met at least once more before then, as Trump was a guest at Virgin Mobile’s US launch party in 2002.

Trump also told the Post in that interview that he found “The Rebel Billionaire” to be a misleading title, because he doubted Branson was worth that much.

“I’m a major billionaire because it’s easy to add up my stuff. But his airline has got to be sucking him dry,” Trump said, referring to Virgin Atlantic and the bankruptcies plaguing the airline industry after 9/11.

The day after trashing Branson in the Post, Trump decided to write him the personal letter from Trump Tower.
According to Branson’s account in “Finding My Virginity,” he sent a restrained reply five days later.

“I have enjoyed our time we have spent together and would not denigrate you personally,” Branson wrote, saying he told interviewers they had different values, namely on whether or not vengeance should be a motivating factor in business. He also said his billionaire status was confirmed by the shares he sold and owned in his British and Australian airlines.

“Perhaps you could re-read what I have said to date and decide whether it’s worth us remaining as friends — or alternatively, you adding me to your list of enemies! It’s your call,” Branson wrote in signing off.

The next time Branson heard from Trump, he wrote, was in September 2015, when Trump was a Republican presidential candidate. Branson said he received an envelope from Trump with a Los Angeles Times article from a few days earlier. It was about the competition among Branson, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to develop the first commercially viable private aerospace company. Trump had taken a Sharpie and drawn an arrow pointed at Branson’s photograph, writing, “RICHARD — GREAT!”

Branson said ignored this note, as well as the invitations he said followed. As he said in his book, “I was one businessperson his divisive rhetoric and bullying behavior would not impress.”

Regulators May Oppose T-Mobile-Sprint Deal Even Under Trump, Analyst Warns

Wall Street is souring on the idea that the Trump administration will go easy on mergers, and that’s hitting one of the most talked about merger candidates right in the stock price.

Shares of wireless carrier Sprint (S, -2.53%) slumped 2% to $7.14 on Tuesday after Deutsche Bank telecom analyst Matthew Niknam cut his price target on the stock to $7 from $8 due to concerns that a merger with a rival carrier would be blocked. Despite renewed rumors of a deal to combine with T-Mobile, Sprint shares have dropped 8% over the past month, even as the S&P 500 Index gained 4%.

Sprint, majority owned by Masayoshi Son’s Softbank Group, has been seen as the one of the most likely merger candidates since Trump was elected. Under the Obama administration, regulators blocked a 2011 deal for AT&T (T, +0.55%) to acquire T-Mobile and signaled a similar outcome was likely in 2014 when Sprint showed interest in combining with T-Mobile. The regulators were concerned that reducing the number of major wireless carriers from four to three could hurt competition and the combination could also lead to massive layoffs.

But Trump’s pro-business stance was at least initially seen as leading to a friendlier outlook from antitrust regulators. Sprint shares jumped from around $6 just before Trump was elected to almost $10 earlier this year on optimism about a possible deal with T-Mobile (TMUS, -0.54%) .

Since then, however, the rosy view on mergers has all but disappeared amid the administration’s chaotic tenure and the increasing likelihood that Democrats will make gains in the 2018 election, Niknam wrote on Tuesday, citing “the risk that more populist/less corporate-friendly sentiment may become more pervasive in DC.”

“In fact, we note that the Democrats’ ‘Better Deal’ agenda (unveiled in July 2017, targeted towards 2018 elections) highlights ongoing corporate consolidation as a threat to US consumers, and proposes sharper scrutiny of potential deals,” the analyst added. Regarding Sprint combining with T-Mobile, Niknam said he was “very bearish on the prospects for deal approval.”

T-Mobile, the third-ranked carrier, and Sprint, the No. 4 carrier, have also been discussing a deal that would combine the two carriers without paying Sprint shareholders much if any of a premium over the recent stock price, Bloomberg reported two weeks ago. The deal proposal also would not include a termination fee if blocked by regulators, given the high risk of antitrust opposition, Bloomberg noted.

Cable companies Comcast (CMCSA, -0.32%) and Charter Communications (CHTR, -0.32%) that are starting to offer wireless service themselves wouldn’t draw much antitrust scrutiny if they bought Sprint, but now “appear less interested in outright ownership,” Niknam added.


Government wins award against Reliance Industries in arbitration case

NEW DELHI: The government has won the award in an arbitration case against Reliance Industries,which had disputed the quantum of penalty to be paid for not finishing the promised ‘work programme’ in four oil blocks, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The promised ‘work programme’ is a commitment to undertake surveys and exploratory drilling. This commitment, along with the percentage of profit that a company offers to share with the state, are key factors in deciding which bidder wins an auctioned exploration block.

The award ends another dispute between RIL and the government, which have been engaged in several legal battles. Reliance Industries declined to comment on this matter.

The arbitration award means RIL will lose tens of millions of dollars in penalty. About six years back, RIL invoked arbitration as it disagreed with the quantum of fine the government had imposed on the company for not meeting the work programme targets. RIL, however, paid the penalty as demanded but was hoping a favourable arbitration award would help it get some money back, sources said. The original penalty considered by the government was in the region of $90 million but the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), the upstream regulator, recommended that it should be reduced to $26 million in 2006. How much RIL ultimately paid as penalty couldn’t be ascertained but sources said it was much higher than $26 million.

The case relates to four blocks namely KG-OSN-97/3, KG-OSN-97/4, MB-OSN-97/3 located off the eastern coast, and GK-OSN-97/1in the western part of the country.

RIL had won these blocks in an auction under the New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP) more than a decade back. Under the policy, failure to meet the committed ‘work programme’ allows the government to penalise winners by recovering an amount equal to the unfinished work programme from them. The award in this arbitration follows recent withdrawal of natural gas price related arbitration by RIL a few months back. Last year, the company withdrew another arbitration challenging the government order to relinquish about 80% of the KG-D6 block.

The arbitration related to government demand of higher revenue from the Panna Mukta Tapti fields resulted in an award last year in favour of the state. But this has been challenged by RIL and partner Shell in a UK court.

Two arbitration cases are still underway. One relates to how much cost RIL can recover from its existing fields in the KG-D6 block and the other concerns the penalty on RIL for producing gas from the adjacent fields of state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp in the KG Basi


‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Jordan Belfort still owes defrauded investors $97.5 million

The wolf is at Jordan Belfort’s door.

It’s been almost 20 years since Belfort copped to securities fraud and money laundering in a stock scam Martin Scorsese later depicted in the hit film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Belfort, 55, ended up with a $110 million judgment on his head in the Brooklyn Federal Court case and he still owes defrauded investors about $97.5 million, court papers show.

Now prosecutors want to garnish money or property they say a company owes to a Belfort-linked entity. Court papers don’t get into how much Delos Living LLC may owe JB Global Holdings, where Belfort is a principal. But prosecutors say they want Belfort’s share of it, a writ of continuing garnishment filed Friday says.

Belfort’s lawyer declined to comment.

Bejiing China

Top 30 Chinese firm profits reached £1.4bn in 2016

The combined net profits of the top 30 highest-grossing Chinese law firms reached £1.4bn (RMB12.66bn) last year, The Lawyer China Top 30 2017 report reveals.

In an industry first, this year’s The Lawyer China Top 30 report – which will be available exclusively to purchase online on Monday 2 October – is able to shed rare light on the top 30 Chinese firms’ profitability. In the past three years, the report’s analytics were largely based on firm’s headcount and revenue figures.

Against an even richer set of data and more quantifiable results, the data shows the so-called red circle, a group of eight prestigious firms, outperform the rest of the Top 30.

The Lawyer first coined the “red circle” term in its first China Top 30 report in 2014. The group consists of Commerce & Finance, Fangda Partners, Global Law Offices, Haiwen & Partners, Jingtian & Gongcheng, JunHe, King & Wood Mallesons (China), JunHe and Zhong Lun.

Since then, it has gained wide popularity within the Chinese legal community as well as law graduates when it comes to recruitment. The “red circle” refers to a group of eight Chinese law firms that are perceived as prestigious or high-quality, similar to the magic circle firms in the UK and white-shoe firms in the US.

Although their sizes vary largely, as revenue range from RMB2.48bn to RMB280m and total number of lawyers range from 1,402 lawyers to 120 lawyers, this group has much higher average revenue per lawyer (RPL), revenue per equity partner (RPP) and profit per equity partner (PEP) compared to their top 30 rivals (see table below).

By RPL, the red circle firms’ average stood at RMB2.33m, more than double the average of the rest 22 firms in the top 30. By PEP, the red circle scored an average of RMB6.5m last year, also doubling the other 22 firms’ average figure.

However, two firms outside of the conventional red circle group, Beijing-based Han Kun and Shanghai-based LLinks, stand out from the crowd having exceeded the red circle threshold across the RPL, RPP and PEP metrics.

As a matter of fact, Han Kun has claimed the top spot as the most profitable firm in China, with an estimated profit per equity partner of RMB9.6m (£1.07m). This would put the firm in the 10th place by PEP in the UK. According to 2017 The Lawyer UK 200 research, UK firm Travers Smith posted a PEP of £970,000 in 2016/17 while Michcon de Reya’s PEP was £1.1m. They were ranked 10th and 9th respectively by PEP among the UK’s 200 largest firms. Han Kun is also ranked at the top by RPP, as each partner generated an average of 12.86m revenue in 2016.

Fangda, one of the conventional red circle firm, came second by PEP, which was estimated at RMB8.5m (£946,000). It is followed by Global Law Offices and Llinks. JunHe came fifth. Zhong Lun, Commerce & Finance, KWM, Haiwen & Partners and Jingtian & Gongcheng make up the rest of the top 10 firms with the highest PEP.


bil gates - expert business advice

There’s one thing in business we take for granted today, and Bill Gates predicted it in 1999

Bill Gates, the richest man in the world (or the second richest, for a bit), mostly dedicates his life these days to philanthropic deeds through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

However, back in 1999 Gates was all about the hustle, penning a number of books about business and the future. One such book, called Business @ The Speed of Thought, released in 1999, included a number of predictions about the future of business and technology, many of them were spot on. Read more