Born in 1950 and educated as the prestigious Stowe School Sir Richard Branson had access to a stellar beginning, but things secretly went awry as his nearsightedness and dyslexia went un-noticed by his parents and teachers. However, this did not impact on his ability to be both resourceful and successful. At 16 he had created a national magazine, at 17 a student advisory service and at 20 founded what was essentially Virgin Music. Initially the business focused on providing mail order records, before it expanded to a discount shop on Oxford Street, London. Later, a recording studio was built in Oxfordshire where Mike Oldfield recorded Virgin’s first album that went on to sell over 5 million copies. Shortly after this he signed The Sex Pistols the rest, as they say is history.
In 1984 Sir Richard Branson formed his main business: Virgin Airlines, the second largest British long haul international airline. It has received many awards for its service and innovation. He enjoyed intermediate success with the Airline; however, in 1992 Branson had to sell Virgin Music to EMI to keep Virgin Airlines thriving. It continues to grow and broaden its reach on the international market.
True to Sir Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial spirit he wanted to capitalise on his already successful ventures and widen his horizons. Between 1994 and 1997 he made an unsuccessful bid on the National Lottery to siphon the profits to charity, he also took over some of Britain’s rail network naming it Virgin Rail, a mobile phone company, an internet company and a Cola. Some of these ventures were more lucrative than others as seen in the 2006 sale of Virgin Mobile for 1 billion pounds which also obtained an 8.5 million pound per year deal for naming rights.
Sir Richard Branson has also made headlines with his personal adventures. In 1987 he crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the „Virgin Atlantic Flyer”, the first largest hot air balloon to cross the ocean. He also founded the Virgin Green Fund to investigate renewable energy resources, Virgin Earth Challenge – a $25 million prize to support sustainable technology, The Elders group tackling the world’s toughest problems and the Virgin Unite Foundation to focus on entrepreneurial approaches to social and environmental issues.
The Virgin conglomerate has quickly surpassed any business model we have seen previously and today the Virgin brand encompasses the likes of Credit Cards, Insurance, cinemas, motorcycles, balloons, space flights, books, bridal emporiums, gas and electricity, limousines, retail stores and digital broadcast radio. Time will tell how successful these projects are, but if past successes are anything to go by, we can all be assured that Sir Richard Branson will eclipse any entrepreneur we have seen to date.
– Started a national magazine ‚Student’ at 16
– Created a student advisory service at 17
– Created Virgin Earth Challenge
– Formed The Elders group with Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel and Desmund Tutu
– Founded Virgin Music in 1972
– Started Virgin Airlines in 1984
– Started Virgin Railways in England
– Created a Virgin mobile, internet and Cola
– Created Virgin Credit Cards and Insurance
– Founded the Virgin Green Fund
– Founded Virgin Unite
– Crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon in 1987
„He’s also charming, thoughtful, and very, very smart. If you bear with the awkwardness, the results are worth it. Branson is one of those rare individuals who has figured out how to do exactly what he wants to do and be incredibly successful at it – all the while apparently having loads of fun. Most of us can learn from him.”
„I was delighted by this year’s choice for Global Leader. Sir Richard spoke to many of my interests; he is inspiring not only in the field of entrepreneurship, but also as a visionary risk-taker.
MaryBeth Bunge, lecturer, Colgate University
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