Scheherazade Daneshkhu (correspondent 1990-present)
As leisure industries correspondent, I covered the battle for the licence to run Britain’s National Lottery for a second term. Richard Branson, the UK’s buccaneering Virgin Group entrepreneur [featured in FT ad above], was desperate to win the licence, even co-opting Desert Orchid, the famous white racehorse, as a publicity stunt for his failed first bid.
On Sunday December 17 2000 - two days before the official announcement - a Sunday paper said incumbent Camelot was “poised” - a word much beloved of journalists - to win. My front page story the next day said definitively that Camelot would win and a piece inside on why the Branson bid failed, was headed “Lottery loser”. I arrived at the office early that Monday morning to hear my phone ringing off the hook. At the end was a spluttering voice, inarticulate in its fury. It was Branson demanding my sources. He believed the FT story and not the Sunday paper – which was why he was calling in person instead of getting a flak to do it. He seemed convinced that the FT was affiliated with the establishment, which had formed a plot against him. There was no conspiracy, but it was not the only time he would cry foul of the system, as he did to great effect with the west coast rail franchise debacle last year.