RICHARD Branson may have revealed that he’s unlikely to stump up the cash to sponsor Formula One team Brawn GP again next year after its spectacular season, but it doesn’t mean the canny entrepreneur is stepping back his involvement now that the team has won the championship.<br /><br />The Virgin tycoon was unable to make it to Brazil on Sunday to watch driver Jenson Button and Brawn flying to a double victory in the penultimate Grand Prix of the season, but I hear he’s planning a stonking celebration for the team in Abu Dhabi after the final race in a fortnight.<br /><br />Branson’s space venture Virgin Galactic will co-host a swanky party at the Etoiles nightclub at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, along with the city’s Aabar Investments, which bought a third of the space exploration company for $280m (£171m) earlier this year.<br /><br />Of course, there’s always an ulterior motive behind such displays of extravagance, and this one will be no exception. It will be entirely space-themed, with models of spaceships dotted about the place in order to try and entice the moneyed guests to sign up to Branson’s first flights to infinity and beyond.<br /><br />“The audience which follows the Grand Prix is a very natural market for us,” a spokesman tells me. “We’ve done exceptionally well this year out of it – every little helps.” Well, quite.<br /><br /><strong>SWANKY DIGS</strong><br />When The Capitalist heard yesterday that David Nish had been confirmed as a successor to Sandy Crombie for the top job at Standard Life, it was onto the blower to find out the answer to the most pressing issue concerning the appointment.<br /><br />Last year, a visitor to Nish’s office at the Standard Life headquarters in Edinburgh was overheard chatting loudly about how she had thoroughly admired the finance director’s “million-dollar view” – to which a rather dour Nish replied that the vista in question would be better if it looked out over the castle.<br /><br />At the time, we speculated that he must be eagerly anticipating swapping digs with Crombie, since the current boss’s office windows do indeed look out over the grand structure.<br /><br />Yet a spokesman for the bank informs me that Nish didn’t need to wait for official confirmation of his new appointment, since he already moved into a front-facing office right next to Crombie’s soon after that comment last year. It obviously pays to have high expectations.<br /><br /><strong>BAH HUMBUG</strong><br />In zooms an unusually juicy titbit courtesy of Ariel, the BBC’s staff newspaper.<br /><br />Apparently, Auntie has arrived at the decision not to make contributions to staff Christmas parties this December, after reducing the amount it stumped up for celebrations last year from a previous £50 a head to a measly £25.<br /><br />No doubt licence-payers will be thrilled by this act of corporate thriftiness, though the Beeb’s own staff are less than enamoured, with most incensed about the suspension of their privileges at a time when management are still claiming for “obscene expenses” as usual.<br /><br />Comments one disgruntled reader of Ariel’s online site: “Rumours that the official BBC Christmas cards will feature Mark Thompson dressed as ‘Scrooge’ have been firmly denied…”<br /><br /><strong>CHILD’S PLAY</strong><br />This may be a first for the City: a top businessman who abhors the idea of hanging corporate art in his office.<br /><br />But James Barham, the chief executive of asset management firm River and Mercantile, has other ambitious ideas for the wall candy in his offices. Barham tells me that every time he appoints a new staff member who has children, he sends his favourite photographer round to his or her house to take a few snaps of the kids in question in playful poses.<br /><br />The black-and-white photographs are then mounted and hung on the walls of the firm’s boardroom and entrance hall to give employees a little emotional uplift as they go about their day. <br /><br />Better than a pesky old Damien Hirst any day, I’m sure you’ll agree.<br /><br /><strong>BODY ART</strong><br />Now here’s an example of shining dedication to duty. I hear Calvin Ayre – the internet gaming billionaire who set up Bodog 15 years ago and grew it into America’s most popular sports betting site – has been hard at work recently working on a launch of the brand in Asia.<br /><br />Ayre reckons the Asian operation – &21338; &29399;, which translates as “gambling dog” – is going to be so successful that he’s even had the oriental characters tattooed on his arm. <br /><br />Let’s hope the mark in question won’t have to go the same way as actor Johnny Depp’s now-infamous “Winona Forever” tattoo, which had to be altered to read “Wino Forever” after the relationship between the pair came to an end a couple of years later.