Britain's flamboyant maverick has created Virgin into one of the world’s biggest brands with over 350 companies in 30 countries covering finance, retail, Internet, soft drinks, Vodka, music, hotels, publishing, leisure, gasoline, cinema, air and rail travel, and mobile phones. He is an adventure seeker and overachiever. He is known as someone who knows how to have a good time while being an entrepreneur, business magnate, and breaker of world records.
Born in Surrey, England in a traditional family.
At age four his mother stopped the car several miles from their home and made him find his house through open fields.
By age 15 he started a Christmas tree growing business and pigeon raising farm, but both failed.
At age sixteen while attending the Stowe School he created a national magazine called Student because he wanted to edit a magazine. In 1966 he funded the magazine by selling $8,000 worth of advertising and printed 50,000 copies, giving them away for free. At age 17 the magazine was run out of a basement apartment in London where room was created by standing the mattresses up during the day. They were subsequently kicked out of the apartment and the business was run in the crypt of a church.
At age twenty he created his first profitable enterprise “Virgin” a mail order record retailer. He named his first profitable business Virgin because it was going to be his first. The Virgin mail order business was started in the crypt of a church above two coffins. Shortly after the mail order business was started “Virgin Records”, a used record store, was opened in Oxford Street, London.
In 1972, at age 22, he built a recording studio and “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield was recorded. The album, the first of Virgin Records, sold more than five million copies.
When he was age 27, he signed a group that was turned down by every label in Britain, The Sex Pistols.
In the late 1970s he bought a houseboat. He worked and lived from the boat and may people were drawn both to visit with him on his boat and to understand his ideas. But with more people coming to the boat, it made it difficult for his wife Joan, so they moved to a five-story townhouse in London. Then, when too many people came to the five-story house, Joan, his wife packed up the family and moved next door. He still runs Virgin unconventionally from home. He has many visitors each day to his home, including twenty of his strategic advisors, and varied assortments of team developers.
In 1984 after a flight he was scheduled to be on was cancelled, he quickly booked a charter jet, invited the other passengers on the cancelled flight to fly free, and hung a hand-written sign above the entryway, reading, "Virgin Atlantic Airways - Flight 1."
He is a consummate promoter like B.T. Barnum and Harry Houdini
In 1987 he started a charity that helps people with AIDS, the Virgin Healthcare Foundation.
His favorite method of working is writing everything down in 122 black ledger notebooks. He has written in many books in his life, but lost nine notebooks when the balloon he was flying, the first to make it around the world went down. He once said, “I can't believe when I see people not writing things down. You know they're not going to remember everything."
He is computer illiterate, which explains his passion for notebooks, and does not own a cell phone.
He has often refereed to himself as Peter Pan; in that he doesn't want to grow up.
In 1991 he crossed the Pacific Ocean, 6,700 miles, from Japan to Arctic Canada in a balloon measuring 2.6 million cubic feet and averaging speeds of up to 245 mph.
In 1992 Virgin Records was sold to the EMI Group.
In December 1999, he was knighted for "services to entrepreneurship" by Queen Elizabeth II. Foreigners who have received this honor include Bill Gates, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, John Paul Getty II, Muhammed Ali, and brother of Walt Disney
, Roy Disney
In 2005 he launched the "Branson School of Entrepreneurship at CIDA City Campus" in South Africa.
In 2006 the Virgin Group has grown to an international conglomerate of over 350 companies and $8 billion a year in sales. The group has companies in industries covering airlines, space ships, retailing (music, videos and computer games), beverages (Cola and Vodka), cosmetics, clothing, financial services, night clubs, health clubs, hotels, cinemas, internet services, mobile phone services, passenger trains, fuel (gasoline), book and software publishing, record labels, tour operation (African safaris and Caribbean hideaways), film and TV production, condoms, and bridal shops.
In 2006 his net worth is estimated to be $2.8 billion, lives in London and Oxfordshire, is married with two children, and owns a home in Spain and an island in the Virgin Islands.
When working on his island, he works from a bar stool at his bar.
His island is available at $25,000 a day.
Richard Branson’s top 10 Secrets to Success: You've got to challenge the big ones. Keep it casual. Haggle: everything is negotiable. Have fun working. Do the right things for the brand. Smile for the cameras! Don't lead "sheep", herd "cats". Move like a bullet. Size does matter. Be a common, regular person.
Virgin Galactic will be the world's first off-the-planet private airline scheduled to begin launching from a spaceport in New Mexico in 2008. A spaceship is being licensed (core design and technologies) from Microsoft founder Paul Allen and airplane designer Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne which went 62 miles above the earth earning the $10 million X Prize for the first sustainable civilian suborbital flight. The total package will cost virgin $121 Million and will offer 50 passengers a month for $200,000 each a two-hour flight and a three-day astronaut experience.