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Billionaire Branson loses bet,
gains lipstick and fishnets

Virgin founder bet AirAsia's Tony Fernandes that his Formula One team would beat Fernandes' team. He lost the bet, but he won the last laugh

Published May 13, 2013
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British business magnate Richard Branson went from CEO to trolley dolly and found the new job, not to mention a tray of drinks, too tricky to hold on to.

Branson’s temporary new gig came about after he lost a bet to AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes. Back in 2010, Fernandes had bet the British entrepreneur that his Lotus Racing team would do better in their debut season than Branson’s Virgin Racing team, with the loser dressing up as a flight attendant.

Lotus F1 finished 10th in the constructors’ championship to Virgin’s 12th and so on May 12, Branson – complete with makeup, a pair of high heels and freshly shaved legs – joined the AirAsia cabin crew on a flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur.

And aside from becoming one of the scarier-looking stewardesses to take to the skies, he didn’t exactly distinguish himself.

He was cheeky and sloppy and earned a reprimand from AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes after he deliberately dumped a tray of orangeade on his lap.

Fernandes, who once worked for Branson’s music company, gleefully declared after Sunday’s nearly six-hour flight that Branson’s skills as an attendant were “rubbish” and that he was being immediately fired.

“I wanted to kill him, actually,” for spilling the juice, Fernandes chuckled.

A cheerful Branson, who was tasked with pouring beverages, serving meals and making flight announcements, took the ribbing in stride.

“I have a funny feeling that this is going to be my last flight,” he told local media.

But Branson hasn’t put the fishnets and lipstick away for good just yet. He will reprise his five-o’clock-shadowed stewardess role on a charity flight next month to fulfil the remainder of the bet, this time serving the paying public.

Tickets for the flight will cost $399, with $100 of the fare going to Australian charity Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Branson is no longer involved in Formula One with the Virgin team now competing as Marussia Racing, while Fernandes’s team has since been renamed Caterham F1.

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