Lord King of Wartnaby, former BA chairman, dies

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[London] Lord King of Wartnaby, born plain John King, was best-known for a spectacularly successful overhaul of British Airways in the 1980s and forging a relationship with Maurice and Charles Saatchi that has endured for 23 years through two different Saatchi ad agencies (the global account at M&C Saatchi is currently in review). He died last week at age 87.

Lord King was named chairman of British Airways by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1981, when the badly run national airline lost almost $1 billion. He focused relentlessly on customer service and job cuts. Lord King and the Saatchi brothers were key figures in 1980s Thatcher-ite Britain. Dedicated to branding and advertising, British Airways became Saatchi's first major global client and, as passenger numbers grew, inspired the famous tagline "The world's favorite airline." The airline was privatized in 1987. Lord King retired from BA after 12 years in 1993, earlier than planned due to a notorious libel case in which Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic successfully sued Lord King for trying to undermine his much smaller rival's business in what became known as the "dirty-tricks" case.

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