RYANAIR boss Michael O’Leary isn’t exactly renowned for taking criticism lying down, so the BBC’s Panorama programme will probably have seen yesterday’s tirade coming.<br /><br />After Monday evening’s programme on the airline, Ryanair unleashed a campaign to maximise publicity from the episode – offering 1.1m free flights, labelling the show a “hatchet job” and slamming 11 “false or misleading” claims made by the Beeb’s team.<br /><br />Not that O’Leary seems too bothered by the whole affair, mind – thanking the broadcaster for a “wonderful PR opportunity” at a hastily-arranged press conference yesterday and taking the opportunity to set the record straight about how he views his own character.<br /><br />“Panorama claimed that ‘O’Leary is a bully’,” the airline informed us. <br /><br />“This is clearly false when the whole world knows that O’Leary is a kind and gentle, caring and thoughtful, sensitive and saintly human being…”<br /><br />Who just happens to be a multi-millionaire who has made it big in the hard-nosed, ruthless world of aviation, right? Pull the other one, old chap.<br />jailhouse rock<br /><br />The $65bn Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff really is determined to keep himself in the headlines, despite being locked up behind bars.<br /><br />Just weeks after being hospitalised with concussion, a broken nose and two black eyes after a brawl with a fellow inmate in his previous jail, Madoff is now causing a bit of a furore in his new prison digs in the centre of Houston, Texas.<br /><br />The swindling septuagenarian was overheard arguing with another elderly prisoner over the state of the financial markets, of all things – and when the rival pushed him roughly, Madoff is understood to have shoved back even harder, causing him to fall over and then standing over him “red-faced and glaring”.<br /><br />Looks like the jailbird lifestyle is toughening up our white-collar criminal a treat.<br /><br /><strong>EGO BOOST</strong><br />Nominations are now open for the public to vote for their business leader of the year, before the winner is announced at the Orange National Business Awards on 10 November.<br /><br />In the fray as nominees are Kingfisher boss Ian Cheshire, Big Issue founder John Bird, Pearson Group chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino, Co-op chief Peter Marks and Sir William Sargent, top dog at digital imaging firm Framestore, which provides animation for major Hollywood studios, among others.<br /><br />Glitzy, you might think, though The Capitalist was astonished, on listening to a short video interview with Sargent on the awards website, that he appears to have the smallest ego of anyone in the business world.<br /><br />When asked why he thought he should win the trophy, Sargent muttered: “The answer is that I don’t think I should… I have no idea who the other nominees are but I can guarantee you they will be more substantial. I got a knighthood last year and I found that deeply psychologically troubling…”<br />Someone get that man on a self-help course, pronto.<br /><br /><strong>STAR STATUS</strong><br />Something quite bizarre seems to have taken place at trucker breakfast favourite Little Chef. After falling into administration in January 2007, the chain has been enjoying something of a revival – not least because of its association with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, who appeared on a Channel 4 programme along with Little Chef chief Ian Pegler, demonstrating a new improved menu for the restaurants.<br /><br />Little Chef Popham – the first location to benefit from the revamped Blumenthal menu – is now in the Good Food Guide, while the company informs me that it expects profits of £3m for the year to end of December, on a turnover of £77m. Wonders will never cease.<br /><br /><strong>BOTTOMS UP</strong><br />As the City splits itself into different camps on whether we’re in a V-, U- or W-shaped recession, fine wine buyers seem to have firmly aligned themselves with the first theory.<br /><br />September’s vino markets saw the main indices – the Live-ex 100 and the Liv-ex Claret Chip – rise two per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively, with Chateau Lafite 2004 and Chateau Margaux 1990 among the biggest gainers.<br /><br />According to the Wine Investment Fund, demand is predictably strongest in Asia – where a six-litre bottle of Chateau Petrus 1982 recently sold for an eye-watering £60,000 at a Hong Kong auction. <br /><br />Who said the days of the big spenders were over?<br /><br /><strong>FESTIVE CHEER</strong><br />And finally, a good four months after the eager high street stores first started showing their Christmas collections, a sign that the festive season proper is almost upon us.<br /><br />An eagle-eyed chum emails to report back on the first sighting of Christmas fairylights, festooning a tree outside a house just to the south of the river Thames. <br />Can’t these people give us all a bit of a break?