Alessio Rastani - latest ugly face of capitalism

Sep 28, 2011

The man who shocked BBC Newsviewers with his ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to the euro crisis

IN THREE entertaining minutes, the independent trader Alessio Rastani pulled off the improbable feat of dragging the City's reputation even further into the gutter when he appeared on BBC News 24 on Monday. Many were shocked by his breezy ruthlessness, summed up in the memorable soundbite "I dream of another recession".

But Rastani (above left) is hardly the first poster-boy for corporate villainy. When ex-Prime Minister Edward Heath coined the phrase "the unacceptable face of capitalism" in 1972 for Tiny Rowland, he cannot have known how much competition there would be for the title.

Tiny Rowland

The target of Heath's seminal barb, Rowland (above right) was head of the London and Rhodesian Mining Company, which became a multi-million pound international conglomerate under his leadership. He has often been criticised as a symbol of colonial exploitation, with recently describing him as "a perambulating piece of filth". Heath called him "the unacceptable face of capitalism" after a group of Lonrho directors accused Rowland of bribery and corruption. Not everybody agreed; Nelson Mandela believes "he made an enormous contribution to the whole of Africa".

Michael O'Leary

It's difficult to argue with Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou's application of Heath's phrase to Ryanair owner and serial feud-monger Michael O'Leary. Stelios was responding to a Ryanair ad campaign depicting him as Pinocchio but the Irishman's rap sheet extends a lot further than that. He has declared war on passenger comfort, threatening to charge his customers to use toilets and for drinking water. The multi-millionaire has also defied safety conventions by attempting to do away with co-pilots and suggesting the Icelandic ash cloud didn't exist. O'Leary seems at ease with his image, boasting: "Every time I'm on TV, we sell more tickets".

John Towers

The managing director of MG Rover and his team caught a tongue-lashing from BMW's top executive in Britain. The men became "the unacceptable face of capitalism" in 2004, when Jim O'Donnell branded them a "disgrace" for the high salaries they were drawing from the company. The directors were no strangers to criticism, having been accused of "financial sleight of hand" by the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee earlier that year. MG Rover went into administration in 2005.

Baron Myners

Life peer Paul Myners courted controversy in 2009 when he helped Fred 'the shred' Goodwin escape the RBS debacle with a huge pension. Columnist and co-founder of the Independent Stephen Glover gave him the Heath treatment over his use of blind trusts, hedge funds and offshore accounts. "Lord Myners might reasonably be said to epitomise some of the worst excesses of capitalism", Glover concluded.

Bob Diamond

The Barclays Bank boss makes the list after receiving his "unacceptable face of banking" tag from former Labour minister Peter Mandelson. The Times reported that Mandelson called Diamond "socially useless and paid an unjustifiable amount of money". The bank came out in defence of Diamond, denying that he was ever paid the reported £63m on which the accusations were based. Tory MP Douglas Carswell went further, calling Mandelson "the unacceptable face of politics".

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