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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 00:24 GMT
Captains of industry honoured

A flair for publicity: Sir Richard Branson A flair for publicity: Sir Richard Branson

Some of the UK's most prominent businessman have received knighthoods in the millennium New Year's honours list.

Flamboyant entrepreneur Richard Branson, who recently sold a half-stake in his Virgin Atlantic airline for 600m, becomes Sir Richard.

Also receiving a knighthood is Alan Sugar, who owns an electronics empire and Tottenham Hotspur football club.

Among the other businessmen becoming knights are Martin Sorrell, the chairman of the advertising group WPP, Ken Morrison of the supermarket chain William Morrison, Chung Kong Chow of engineering group GKN, Winfriend Bischoff of merchant bankers Schroders and Ian Robinson of Scottish Power.

Lower down in the honours list, Jane Reed, director of corporate affairs for Rupert Murdoch's News International, receives a CBE.

Ms Reed is a former editor of Woman's Own.

Virgin's amazing rise

Sir Richard Branson is the most flamboyant of Britain's new breed of entrepreneurs.

Leaving school at 17, he launched a student magazine, then a record company that managed to launch the career of Mike Oldfield, then landed the Sex Pistols, the Rolling Stones and Genesis.

The fifth richest man in Britain, he recently launched a mobile phone company part of an empire now stretching into cinema, radio, fashion, finance, drinks, the internet, even bridal services.

He has also been one of the most prominent supporters of New Labour, buying a stake in Virgin Trains and trying to take over the running of the Lottery and the Dome.

Sugaring up to Labour

Alan Sugar is another prominent businessman who has been closely associated with the Labour government.

Sir Alan Sugar, Tottenham owner and electronics millionaire
He began manufacturing computers in the Far East under the Amstrad brand, and recently branched out into other electronic goods such as mobile phones and stereo systems.

But his companies had been in difficulties as deep discounts from established manufacturers cut into his computer sales.

Mr Sugar also, more controversially, purchased the struggling premier league club Tottenham Hotspurs. He has been criticised by fans for not spending more money on bringing top players to the club, which has yet to win a major championship since he took over in 1991.

Mr Sugar recently completed a two-year tour of Britain, trying to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs. The National Enterprise Campaign is being backed by Chancellor Gordon Brown and the British Chambers of Commerce.

Ad man honoured

The other prominent business knight, Sir Martin Sorrell, runs Britain's most successful advertising company.

Sir Martin Sorrell: billion pound ad company
In 13 years WPP has become a corporate giant, which owns advertising agencies Ogilvy and Mather and J Walter Thompson, and has sales of nearly 10bn each year. Its accounts include Ford and IBM.

But Mr Sorrell ran into criticism earlier this year for receiving a 35m bonus to his pay after improving the company's profits.

He defended his "fat-cat" salary by saying he had put his "money where is mouth is" by investing his own funds in the firm.

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See also:
31 Dec 99 |  Business
Branson delighted with knighthood
20 Dec 99 |  Business
Branson: Still flying high
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Branson sells 49% of Virgin Atlantic
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Record 35m bonus for advert boss
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