Richard Branson, a high-school dropout, is today one of the richest business kingpins in the world. The founder and chairman of a leading business group, Virgin Group, his entrepreneurial achievements are unparalleled. Today, Virgin Group, which started off as a humble store selling music records called, Virgin Records, holds more than 400 companies. The company gradually expanded to Virgin Megastores, Virgin Atlantic Airways and many more. This billionaire has a net worth of US$ 4.2 billion and he is currently, the 4th richest man in the United Kingdom and one of the ten most influential people around the world. Apart from his headline-grabbing industry, he has appeared in a number of television series and has also played himself in a couple of movies. He was the star of the reality show, ‘The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best’ and also appeared in the movies, ‘Around the World in 80 days’ and ‘Casino Royale’. An avid Star Trek fan, Branson’s autobiography, ‘How I Lost My Virginity’ became an international best-seller and earned him critical acclaim. He is the recipient of numerous awards and is currently a patron of several charities around the world like ‘Prisoners Abroad’ and ‘International Rescue Corps’. To get an overview of this personality’s life and career, scroll further.
Childhood & Early Life
He was eldest child of barrister Edward James Branson and Eve Huntley Branson. His grandfather, Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson, was a judge of the High Court of Justice and a Privy Councillor.
He studied at Scaitcliffe School and then attended Stowe School, until the age of 16. He was academically poor, but was able to connect with others around him. Eventually, he dropped out of school, realizing it was not where he wanted to be.
At the age of 16, he started his record business from the crypt of a church and advertised the famous records in ‘The Student’, a magazine. The magazine became an instant success and he soon began trading records under the name, ‘Virgin’.
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During the music-drug scene in the early 70s in UK, Branson set up a small recording studio in Oxfordshire, England in 1972. The first artist on the Virgin Records label was Mike Oldfield, who recorded the song, ‘Tubular Bells’.
After Oldfield’s success, he signed other musical groups with Virgin Records such as the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols and the Culture Club. These groups would eventually make Virgin Records one of the top record companies in the world.
After the success of Virgin Records, he expanded his entrepreneurial efforts and began his own travel company, the Voyager Group in 1980.
In 1984, he expanded his business and started his own group of airlines, ‘Virgin Atlantic’ and a series of Virgin Megastores thereafter. It was not that he always tasted success and his businesses faced liquidity problems as well.
The Virgin Group had financial problems in 1992 and was finally sold to THORN EMI for $1 billion. He was devastated but continued to stay in the music business.
He started another record company called V2 in 1996, which still operates to date and has signed artists like Tom Jones and Powder Finger.
On September 25, 2004, he announced that he was going to start a new space tourism company called ‘Virgin Galactic’, with the aid of Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen and Burt Rutan.
He was a judge for the reality show, ‘The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best’ in 2004, where 14 contestants were tested for their entrepreneurial abilities. The same year, he also made a cameo appearance in ‘Around the World in 80 Days’.
Branson launched the Virgin Health Bank on February 1, 2007, which ensured that parents-to-be could store stem cells for the future. It also offers the option to people to store their baby’s umbilical cord.
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In 2010, he became the patron of the Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race, which had over 16 balloons flying all across Europe.
In July 2012, he announced that he was going to launch an orbital space launch called LauncherOne.
He is the chairman and owner of Virgin Group, which currently holds more than 400 companies in 30 countries around the world. His business empire includes a train company, an airline company, a mobile phone company, a luxury game preserve and a space tourism company.
He is the author of ‘Losing my Virginity’, which is an autobiography that features his story from rags to riches. The book became an international success overnight and was adapted into a biopic by David Mirkin and Steven Paul.
Awards & Achievements
He was presented the United Nations Correspondents Association Citizen of the World Award for his contributions to humanitarian causes on December 7, 2007.
He was awarded the ISTA Prize by the International Space Transport Association for his contributions pertaining to space transport systems on November 14, 2011
In 2012, he was ranked the 4th richest citizen of the United Kingdom in the list of billionaires by Forbes Magazines.
Personal Life & Legacy
Richard Branson married Kristen Tomassi in 1972 and divorced her in 1979.
He married Joan Templeman in 1989 on Necker Island, one of the islands from British Virgin Islands, which he owns. He also owns land in Barbuda and Antigua. He has a son and a daughter.
He is an avid supporter of the football team, the Oxford United.
He supports many humanitarian causes and in May 2008, he travelled to the Massai Mara to open a new school. He has also volunteered to fund charity fund raisers and has even contributed to the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
This business tycoon has expressed dreams of opening a casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This famous personality likes to keep a hammock in his office, on which he likes to brainstorm his ideas.
He owns a $30 million yacht called ‘Necker Belle’ and a 3-seater submarine called ‘Necker Nymph’.
This great business mogul is dyslexic.