Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is a British entrepreneur, business magnate, and commercial astronaut. In the 1970s he founded the Virgin Group, which today controls more than 400 companies in various fields.
Branson's first business venture, at the age of 16, was a magazine called Student. 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's Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s, as he started the Virgin Atlantic airline and expanded the Virgin Records music label. In 1997, Branson founded the Virgin Rail Group to bid for passenger rail franchises, during the privatisation of British Rail. The Virgin Trains brand operated the InterCity West Coast franchise from 1997 to 2019, the InterCity CrossCountry franchise from 1997 to 2007, and the InterCity East Coast franchise from 2015 to 2018. In 2004, he founded spaceflight corporation Virgin Galactic, based at Mojave Air and Space Port in California, noted for the SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane designed for space tourism.
Branson’s numerous charitable initiatives included pledging an estimated $3 billion in 2006 to fund environmentally friendly fuel research. In 2007, in honour of his sustained support of humanitarian and environmental causes, Branson received the Citizen of the Year Award from the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA).
In 2007, he was placed in the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list. In July 2021, Forbes listed Branson's estimated net worth at US$5.7 billion.
In March 2000, Branson was knighted at Buckingham Palace for "services to entrepreneurship".
Sir Richard, who was a school dropout, entered into his first successful business venture as a teenager with the magazine Student. When the magazine began losing money in the late 1960s, he formed Virgin Mail Order Records (so named because Branson considered himself inexperienced in business) to raise funds, and in 1971 he opened the first British discount record store. In 1973, he helped form Virgin Records, which quickly became the principal label worldwide for punk and new wave.
In 1984, he became the majority backer of the airline that he renamed Virgin Atlantic Airways. Beginning with a single aircraft, the carrier succeeded despite fierce opposition from established airlines, and in 1992, Branson sold Virgin Records to raise additional money for Virgin Atlantic.
In 1986, Branson was part of a two-man team that set a record for a powerboat crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. In hot-air ballooning he and Swedish aeronaut Per Lindstrand became in 1987 the first team to cross the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon and in 1991 the first to cross the Pacific Ocean.
By the 1990s, the Virgin conglomerate, which was among the largest privately held companies in the United Kingdom, comprised some 100 businesses, including Virgin Megastores.
Branson was also a member of teams that made three failed attempts in the late 1990s at round-the-world balloon flights. On the third attempt, made in December 1998, the pair were joined by American adventurer Steve Fossett, and they traveled some 8,200 miles (13,200 km), becoming the first to fly across the whole of Asia in a hot-air balloon, before being forced down off Hawaii.
In 2004, Branson formed Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company that was working toward offering commercial suborbital passenger flights. In 2006, Branson sold Virgin Mobile, a wireless phone service, though he remained the largest shareholder of the company, which was later renamed Virgin Media, Inc. That same year he formed the collaborative entertainment companies Virgin Comics LLC and Virgin Animation Private Limited.
Branson helped fund Fossett’s record-setting flight in 2005, in which he completed the first solo nonstop circumnavigation of the world in an airplane. In 2021, Branson made a suborbital spaceflight in a Virgin Galactic spacecraft.
Branson published an autobiography, Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way (1998, updated ed. 2011), and iterated his business philosophy in The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership (2014).
Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, has a vision of creating a better world by disrupting the status quo and challenging the conventional way of doing things. His vision is centered around the idea of making a positive impact on society by creating businesses that address pressing issues and make a difference in people's lives.
Branson believes that businesses can be a force for good and should be a catalyst for positive change. His vision is to create companies that prioritize sustainability, social responsibility, and innovation, while also providing excellent customer service and products. He believes that by doing so, his companies can make a positive impact on the world, while also being profitable and successful.
One of Branson's main goals is to address issues related to climate change and promote sustainable development. He believes that businesses have a responsibility to take action on climate change and that it is possible to create a sustainable future through innovation and collaboration. Branson's vision also involves creating companies that empower people and communities, provide access to education and healthcare, and promote equality and diversity.
Recognition and Awards
Richard Branson | Wikipedia
The legendary UK record label | Virgin
What we learned from 20 minutes with Richard Branson | Gentleman's Journey
Virgin Group History | Funding Universe
Highlights From Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Flight | The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Richard Branson | Biography & Facts | Britannica
Richard Branson | Forbes