views

BRANSON ON LOOKOUT FOR SPACE RACE BUDDY

MUCH is resting on tycoon Sir Richard Branson&rsquo;s hotly-anticipated new venture to infinity and beyond. <br /><br />Virgin Galactic &ndash; which plans to fly the first commercial passenger flight into space within the next couple of years &ndash; is well underway with planned test flights for its spaceship and carrier aircraft, more than a decade after the idea was first hatched by Branson and a couple of cronies over supper in a Moroccan bar.<br /><br />And now, The Capitalist hears that Branson, always keen to get ahead of the pack, is already concocting plans for potential future cosmic tieups &ndash; including preliminary talks with billionaire Robert Bigelow, the brains behind the world&rsquo;s first space hotel.<br /><br />Bigelow&rsquo;s Sundancer hotel will be an advanced beast, with 180 cubic metres of space, three windows, water-filled cushions in the walls to deflect radiation and walls made of a Kevlar-like material to protect holidaymakers from space debris. A week in the contraption will set you back around $8m (&pound;5.02m) when it launches &ndash; which is positively a snip along with the $200,000 Branson is charging for Virgin Galactic&rsquo;s first flights into space.<br /><br />&ldquo;It is early days and no formal talks have happened yet, but we have an ambition of later taking people to space hotels in the second phase of Galactic&rsquo;s growth,&rdquo; says Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn. &ldquo;Bigelow have a fantastic inflatable technology which may be the answer, not just in orbit, but also in future on the moon&hellip;&rdquo;<br /><br />The mind boggles.<br /><br /><strong>JAILBIRD FLIES NEST</strong><br />So, Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford, languishing in jail on $7bn fraud charges, is moving digs after being hospitalised earlier this week following a run-in with an unfriendly fellow inmate.<br /><br />The reason behind the move, so the story goes, is that the new detention centre in the centre of Houston will make it easier for Stanford to meet with his lawyers, rather than because of the fight. Concussion, a broken nose and two black eyes didn&rsquo;t swing the vote, then?<br /><br /><strong>ROCK N ROLL</strong><br />What is it with accountants these days and their penchant for banging out a good tune? The next in the recent long line of audit professionals to take the stage will be KPMG&rsquo;s Keith Miller and Chris Fry, playing a fund-raising gig in Manchester on Saturday with Jam tribute band The Modern World (above).<br />Perhaps, seeing as the event is on eve of the Tory Party conference in the city, party leader David Cameron might pop along? After all, I hear the band will be playing their version of &ldquo;Eton Rifles&rdquo; &ndash; which Cameron, much to the irritation of rocker Paul Weller, once named as his favourite song.<br /><br /><strong>HONEY POT</strong><br />Hedge fund types who are keen to get back to the profligate days of old will be glad to hear that one of their Mayfair locals, posh department store Fortnum and Mason, continues to come up trumps.<br /><br />Fortnum yesterday sent out a piece of puffery boasting about the first harvest of fine honey from the bees living on its roof &ndash; which, apparently, gather pollen exclusively from the parks within a three-mile radius of the store (perhaps they are all micro-tagged like miniature ex-jailbirds?). Only 400 of the jars are available, at an eminently reasonable &pound;10 a pop. The days of the big spender are officially back.