Richard Branson

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Sir Richard Branson born 18 July, 1950 is an English business magnate, investor and philanthropist.  He founded the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies. In March 2000, Branson was knighted at Buckingham Palace for “services to entrepreneurship”. For his work in retail, music and transport (with interests in land, air, sea and space travel), his taste for adventure, and for his humanitarian work, he became a prominent figure.  In 2004, he founded spaceflight corporation Virgin Galactic, based at Mojave Air and Space Port, noted for the SpaceShipOne and SpaceShip Two projects.

In June 2019, Forbes ranked Branson 478th richest in the world with an estimated net worth of $4.1 billion.

Branson was born in Blackheath, London, the eldest of three children of Eve Branson a former ballet dancer and air hostess, and Edward James Branson, a barrister.  He has two younger sisters. Branson was educated at Scaitcliffe School, a prep school in Surrey, before briefly attending Cliff View House School in Sussex. He also attended Stowe School, an independent school in Buckinghamshire until the age of sixteen.Branson has dyslexia and had poor academic performance; on his last day at school, his headmaster, Robert Drayson, told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire.  Branson’s parents were supportive of his endeavours from an early age.  His mother was an entrepreneur; one of her most successful ventures was building and selling wooden tissue boxes and wastepaper bins.

Branson expressed his desire to become an entrepreneur at a young age. His first business venture, at the age of 16, was a magazine called Student.  Branson started his record business from the church where he ran Student magazine. He interviewed several prominent personalities of the late 1960s for the magazine including Mick Jagger and R. D. Laing.  Branson advertised popular records in Student, and it was an overnight success.  Trading under the name “Virgin”, he sold records for considerably less than the “High Street” outlets, especially the chain W. H. Smith. Branson once said, “There is no point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of frustration.” The name “Virgin” was suggested by one of Branson’s early employees because they were all new at business.  At the time, many products were sold under restrictive marketing agreements that limited discounting, despite efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to limit so-called resale price maintenance.

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In 1970, he set up a mail-order record business. He opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records—later known as Virgin Megastores—in 1972.Branson eventually started a record shop in Oxford Street in London. In 1971, he was questioned in connection with the selling of records in Virgin stores that had been declared export stock. The matter was never brought before a court because Branson agreed to repay any unpaid VAT of 33% and a ÂŁ70,000 fine. His parents re-mortgaged the family home in order to help pay the settlement.

Earning enough money from his record store, Branson in 1972 launched the record label Virgin Records with Nik Powell, and bought a country estate north of Oxford in which he installed a residential recording studio, The Manor Studio.  He leased studio time to fledgling artists, including multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, whose debut album Tubular Bells (1973) was the first release for Virgin Records and became a chart-topping best-seller.

Virgin Records signed more artists including the Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, UB40, Steve Winwood and Paula Abdul, and to become the world’s largest independent record label.  It also won praise for exposing the public to such obscure avant-garde music as Faust and Can. Virgin Records also introduced Culture Club to the music world. In 1982, Virgin purchased the gay nightclub Heaven. In 1991, in a consortium with David Frost, Branson made an unsuccessful bid for three ITV franchisees under the CPV-TV name. The early 1980s also saw his only attempt as a producer—on the novelty record “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep”, by Singing Sheep in association with Doug McLean and Grace McDonald. The recording was a series of sheep baa-ing along to a drum-machine-produced track and reached number 42 in the UK charts in 1982.

By 1983 Branson’s empire encompassed more than 50 companies involved in everything from filmmaking to air conditioner cleaning and generating combined sales of more than $17 million. But according to Branson, money is not the driving force behind his varied business endeavors. Instead, his principal motive for expanding into new ventures is that he enjoys the challenge of trying to do something better than other people. And in 1984, Branson embarked on what would prove to be the biggest challenge of his life-Virgin Atlantic airlines. Branson’s first successful entry into the airline industry was during a trip to Puerto Rico. His flight was cancelled, so he decided to charter his own plane the rest of the way and offer a ride to the rest of the stranded passengers for a small fee in order to cover the cost.  The initial response to Virgin Atlantic was tremendous.

The airline became famous for its superior service and lavish amenities, which included in-flight massages, hydrotherapy baths, free ice cream during movies and seat-back video screens in every class. But the early 1990s would prove to be a turbulent era for the upstart airline. Economies were floundering worldwide. The price of airline fuel had more than doubled. And fewer people were traveling abroad due to fear of terrorist attacks. To make matters worse, in 1991, British Airways launched a secret campaign to drive Branson out of business.By 1992, Virgin Atlantic’s financial situation was so shaky that Branson’s bankers forced him to sell Virgin Records to Thorn-EMI to raise enough cash to keep the airline flying. The sale generated nearly $1 billion, enough for Branson to pay off the bank and own Virgin Atlantic outright. But Branson was crushed at being forced to sell the music company he loved and vowed never to put himself at the mercy of bank lenders again.

To this end, he developed a new business approach, which he calls “branded venture capital.” This remarkable strategy has enabled Branson to launch a patchwork of businesses with minimal investment. The key to this strategy lies in licensing the highly regarded Virgin name. Basically, Branson manages the business and supplies the Virgin name, usually in exchange for a controlling interest, while his wealthy partners put up most of the cash.  As a result of this strategy, Branson now owns or holds interests in more than 200 different companies, including two airlines, Virgin Interactive Entertainment, Virgin Radio, Virgin Studios, Virgin Hotels, Virgin Bridal, Virgin Clubs, Virgin Cola, Virgin Publishing, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Net, the Virgin Megastore chain, V2 (a global record company), a financial planning network, a blimp business, a modeling agency, a life insurance company and the high-speed European railway Eurostar. Richard Branson thrives on challenges. A true adventurer in every sense of the word, he hasn’t limited his risk-taking to business ventures only.  

Richard Branson has undertaken many endurance world record attempts. He set the fastest transatlantic sailing record in 1986. He also made several record attempts in hot air balloons.In 1993, Branson was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Technology from Loughborough University.  In the New Year’s Honours list dated 30 December 1999, Elizabeth II signified her intention to confer the honour of Knight Bachelor on him for his “services to entrepreneurship”.  He was knighted by Charles, Prince of Wales on 30 March 2000 at an investiture in Buckingham Palace.  Also, in 2000, Branson received the Tony Jannus Award for his accomplishments in commercial air transportation.  Branson appears at No. 85 on the 2002 list of 100 Greatest Britons on the BBC and voted for by the public. Branson was also ranked in 2007’s Time magazine “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World”. On 7 December 2007, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon presented Branson with the United Nations Correspondents Association Citizen of the World Award for his support for environmental and humanitarian causes.

Several other honours have been awarded to him. In 2009, Branson was voted the UK’s “Celebrity Dream Boss” in an opinion poll by Cancer Research UK. On 24 January 2011, Branson was awarded the German Media Prize (organised by “Media Control Charts”), previously handed to former US president Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama. On 14 November 2011, Branson was awarded the ISTA Prize by the International Space Transport Association in The Hague for his pioneering achievements in the development of suborbital transport systems with “Virgin Galactic”.  On 11 February 2012, Branson was honoured with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ President’s Merit Award for his contributions to the music industry. On 21 September 2014, Branson was recognized by The Sunday Times as the most admired business person over the last five decades.  On 29 October 2015, Branson was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 1 in the list of 100 Most Influential British Entrepreneurs. In October 2015, Branson received the International Crisis Group Chairman’s Award at the United Nations Development Programme’s In Pursuit of Peace Awards Dinner.Calling him one of the biggest business moguls of the 20th and 21st century wouldn’t be an exaggeration.  Richard Branson wasn’t just another typical business tycoon trying to spread his empire and make money. He cared for the world and it’s good. Virgin Unite is a non-profit organization with the help of which he’s done some great charity work.