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Virgin Group

Virgin Group Ltd. is a British multinational venture capital conglomerate founded by Richard Branson and Nik Powell in February 1970.
Virgin Group
Leadership team

Nik Powell (Founder)

Josh Bayliss (CEO)

Andrew Swaffield (Chief Commercial Officer)

Holly Branson (Chief Purpose and Vision Officer)

Peter Norris (Chairman)

Ian Woods (General Counsel and COO)

Ash Shah (Finance Director)

Evan Lovell (Chief Investment Officer )

Nikki Humphrey (Chief People Officer)

Number of Employees
20,000 - 50,000
Headquarters
London, GB
Established
1970
Social Media
Summary

Virgin Group Ltd. is a renowned British multinational venture capital conglomerate that was founded by Richard Branson and Nik Powell in February 1970. While the date of incorporation is listed as 1989 by Companies House, Virgin's business and trading activities date back to the 1970s. As of early 2023, the estimated net worth of Virgin Group stands at £3 billion.

The Virgin Group encompasses a diverse portfolio of over 40 companies operating across five business sectors and spanning five continents. Some of the notable companies within the Virgin Group include Virgin Atlantic Airways, which is the second-largest airline in the United Kingdom, Virgin Holidays, a leading vacation tour operator, Virgin Rail, the second-largest train operator in the UK, and the Virgin Retail Group, which operates Virgin Megastores offering a wide range of entertainment products such as videos, music CDs, and computer games. 

Additionally, Virgin Direct provides financial services, Virgin Cola is a beverage maker, and the group also has interests in record labels, book and music publishing, hotels, internet services, movie theaters, radio stations, cosmetics, bridal retailing, and clothing. 


History

The Virgin brand was born in 1970 with the launch of Virgin Mail Order, offering discounted records to students. The following year, Virgin opened its first record shop, marking its entry into the retail industry. In 1972, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, acquired a residence in Oxfordshire, England, which he transformed into the first Virgin Records recording studio, known as The Manor. This studio went on to host iconic artists such as The Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson, The Smashing Pumpkins, and The Spice Girls under Virgin's label. 

In 1973, Virgin Records and Virgin Music Publishing were established in the UK, with the record label later expanding to the USA in 1986. In 1978, Richard Branson purchased Necker Island, which later became his family home.

The year 1979 marked the opening of the first Virgin Megastore, a milestone in the brand's expansion. Over the years, Virgin Megastores expanded globally, with locations in Japan (1990), the USA (1992), the Middle East (2001), and Australia (2002).
In 1981, Virgin entered the gaming industry with Virgin Games, later known as Virgin Interactive, releasing video games for popular systems like the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and C64. 

In 1984, Virgin made its debut in the airline industry by launching Virgin Atlantic, offering a new and stylish way to travel. The same year, Virgin Holidays was introduced, aiming to provide luxurious and memorable vacations. In response to the AIDS crisis, Virgin also launched Mates Condoms, a non-profit organization offering affordable condoms to help combat the epidemic. The year 1986 saw Virgin Atlantic expanding its routes with the launch of a London Gatwick to Miami service, acquiring another Boeing 747. 

In 1987, the Virgin Airship and Balloon Company, which later became Virgin Balloon Flights, took off, showcasing Richard Branson's inclination for adventure and pushing boundaries. 

In 1991, Virgin Publishing was established, later becoming Virgin Books. However, in 1992, Virgin Records was sold to Thorn EMI for a staggering $1 billion. In 1993, Virgin made its presence felt on the airwaves with the launch of Virgin Radio, which expanded to multiple countries over the years. The same year witnessed the introduction of Virgin Cola and Virgin Vodka under the Virgin Drinks umbrella. 

In 1995, Virgin Direct and Virgin Cinemas were launched, followed by the birth of V2 Music, Virgin.net, Virgin Brides, and Virgin Express in 1996. The iconic V festival was inaugurated in the UK during this period. Virgin Trains also made its debut and secured a franchise for the West Coast Main Line route in the subsequent years. 
The late 1990s saw the launch of the Virgin Cosmetics Company, Virgin One account, and Virgin Mobile in the UK. Virgin Active, a chain of fitness clubs, was established in the UK and expanded globally. 

Richard Branson received a knighthood for his entrepreneurial endeavors in 1999. Virgin Blue, an Australian airline, took flight in 2000, and various other ventures such as Virginmoney.com, Virgin Cars, Virgin Energy, Virgin Student, and Virgin Wines were launched. Virgin Limited Edition, an exclusive collection of luxury retreats, also began its journey, adding more properties to its portfolio over the years. 

In 2001, Virgin Trains introduced the Pendolino trains, known for their innovative design. Virgin Money was established through the merger of Virgin Direct and Virginmoney.com, subsequently expanding to several countries. Virgin Experience, later known as Virgin Experience Days, was launched, offering unique experiential packages. 

Despite the global aviation slump following 9/11, Virgin Atlantic invested in enhancing the customer experience, including the creation of a new Clubhouse at London Heathrow. In the following years, Virgin Money introduced its credit card, Virgin Atlantic unveiled its 'Upper Class' suite with fully flat beds, and Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, was founded to drive positive change. 
Virgin Galactic, the pioneering commercial spaceline, was launched, and Virgin Digital introduced its music service. Virgin Games debuted Virgin Casino and Virgin Poker, while Virgin Unite initiated impactful projects such as Pride 'n' Purpose and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. Virgin Media was formed through a merger, and Virgin Fuels (later Virgin Green Fund) began its operations. 

Virgin America and Virgin Health Miles were launched, and Virgin Unite collaborated with prominent figures like Nelson Mandela to form The Elders. V Australia, Virgin Money Giving, and Virgin Racing were introduced, and Virgin Unite supported initiatives such as Galactic Unite and the Ocean Elders.
In 2011, Virgin Australia was formed through the merger of multiple airlines, including Virgin Blue and V Australia. Richard Branson joined the Global Commission on Drug Policy, demonstrating his commitment to social issues. Virgin Money UK successfully acquired Northern Rock, and Virgin Care launched as a private provider for the NHS. The following year, Virgin Galactic introduced the orbital space-launch system LauncherOne, and Virgin Trains regained the West Coast Main Line route after a legal battle. 

2013 saw the launch of Virgin StartUp and the Virgin Racing Formula E team, along with the tragic accident during a Virgin Galactic test flight that spurred the team to persevere. Virgin Hotels opened its first property in Chicago in 2015, and Virgin Group invested in OneWeb. 
Over the years, Virgin Group expanded into new ventures such as Virgin Voyages, Virgin Sport, and Virgin Hyperloop, while continuing to publish books, open hotels, and respond to global events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, Virgin Orbit achieved two successful spaceflights into orbit, demonstrating its capabilities in the aerospace industry. Virgin Music Label & Artist Services launched, further expanding the group's presence in the music industry. The launch of VG Acquisition Corp and Virgin Group Acquisition Corp II showcased the group's focus on strategic investments. The merger of Virgin Media and O2 resulted in the creation of Virgin Media O2, strengthening its position in the telecommunications sector. 

Virgin Hotels opened new locations in Las Vegas and New Orleans, while Virgin Red, a new rewards club, was introduced. Virgin Experiences Gifts launched in the US, offering unique and memorable experiences. Virgin Galactic made headlines with its first fully crewed spaceflight, featuring Richard Branson as Astronaut 001. 


Investment criteria

Virgin Group's investment criteria are guided by its commitment to supporting unique and exceptional customer experiences while fostering innovation and disrupting traditional industries. As an investment management firm, Virgin Management operates globally, with offices in the UK, the US, Switzerland, Australia, and South Africa. This diversified operating model enables effective management and coordination of the Virgin Group's investment portfolio.

One aspect of Virgin Group's investment strategy is through brand licensing. VEL Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries, particularly Virgin Enterprises Limited, license the Virgin brand to companies through trademark license agreements. These companies include both investee businesses that are part of the Virgin Group and licensees in which the Virgin Group has no ownership interest. The brand licensing approach allows Virgin Group to extend its unique consumer proposition and brand presence across various sectors and geographies.

The key investment criteria for Virgin Group revolve around businesses that prioritize the customer experience, innovation, and disrupting established norms. Each investee business and licensee under the Virgin brand aims to provide fresh, distinctive, and consumer-focused propositions that elevate experiences beyond the ordinary. This customer-centric approach is exemplified in various sectors. For example, Virgin Money introduces unique customer store concepts, Virgin Red offers a fresh perspective on rewards, and Virgin Voyages is poised to revolutionize the cruising experience.

Investments considered by Virgin Group should align with the brand's core values and focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences. The potential investee businesses and licensees should exhibit a strong commitment to innovation, challenging the status quo, and bringing fresh perspectives to their respective industries. Additionally, the Virgin Group seeks opportunities for geographical expansion, venturing into new sectors, and partnering with companies that share its vision for disruptive and customer-centric approaches.

Virgin Group's investment management division works closely with investee businesses and licensees, providing shared administrative functions, strategic oversight, and centralized support. This structure allows for efficient management and coordination of the portfolio, ensuring that each business operating under the Virgin brand receives the necessary guidance and resources to thrive.


Values

Insatiable Curiosity: Virgin Group embodies a relentless curiosity and thirst for knowledge. The company encourages its employees and partners to constantly seek new ideas, explore uncharted territories, and challenge conventional thinking. This value drives innovation and encourages continuous learning and growth within the organization.

Smart Disruption: Virgin Group is known for its smart disruption approach. It aims to shake up industries by identifying opportunities for improvement and creating innovative solutions. The company seeks to challenge outdated practices, break through barriers, and reshape markets to benefit customers. Smart disruption involves strategic thinking, calculated risk-taking, and leveraging technology to drive positive change.

Straight Up: Being straight up means being honest, transparent, and authentic in all interactions. Virgin Group values open and direct communication, both internally and externally. This value fosters trust, builds strong relationships, and enables effective collaboration. By maintaining a straightforward approach, Virgin Group aims to create a culture of integrity and build long-term partnerships based on mutual respect.

Heartfelt Service: Virgin Group places a strong emphasis on providing heartfelt service to its customers. This value emphasizes the importance of genuinely caring for customers' needs and delivering exceptional experiences. From personalized interactions to going the extra mile, the company strives to create meaningful connections and leave a lasting positive impression.

Delightfully Surprising: Virgin Group aims to delight and surprise its customers by exceeding their expectations. This value involves adding unexpected elements of joy, creativity, and innovation to products, services, and customer interactions. By constantly seeking ways to surprise customers in delightful ways, the company aims to create memorable experiences and cultivate loyal brand advocates.

Red Hot Relevance: Virgin Group values staying relevant in a rapidly evolving world. The company recognizes the importance of adapting to changing trends, technologies, and customer preferences. By remaining agile and forward-thinking, Virgin Group strives to anticipate and meet the needs of its target audience. Red hot relevance involves staying at the forefront of industries, understanding emerging markets, and consistently evolving to maintain a competitive edge.


Mission

The mission of the Virgin Group is to Changing Business For Good, driven by its brand purpose. With a focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences and challenging established norms, Virgin Group aims to disrupt industries and create positive change. Through its investment management division, Virgin Management, the group operates globally, providing strategic oversight, shared administrative functions, and centralized support to its portfolio of investee businesses and licensees.

At the core of Virgin Group's mission is a commitment to unique and exceptional customer experiences. Each business operating under the Virgin brand strives to bring fresh, innovative, and consumer-focused propositions to their respective sectors. Whether it's Virgin Money's concept stores, Virgin Red's perspective on rewards, or Virgin Voyages' reinvention of the cruising experience, the group places the customer experience at the heart of its ventures.

Furthermore, Virgin Group seeks to foster innovation and challenge the status quo. By investing in companies that embody the essence of the Virgin brand, the group aims to disrupt industries, introduce new ideas, and uplift experiences beyond the ordinary. The diversified operating model of Virgin Management, with offices spanning different regions, enables effective management and coordination of investments, supporting the group's mission on a global scale.

Underpinning the mission is a commitment to Changing Business For Good. Virgin Group strives to create positive impact and drive transformation in industries it operates in. This includes fostering a culture of innovation, promoting sustainable practices, and championing social initiatives through its non-profit foundation, Virgin Unite.


Portfolio

Alongside the management of the portfolio of existing Investee Businesses and Licensees, Virgin Management advises on new investments on behalf of the Virgin Group and Branson family in key sectors. These include:

Real estate:  The Virgin Group’s global portfolio of real estate operates under the Virgin Hotels and Virgin Limited Edition brands.

Venture capital and start-ups

The venture capital portfolio is focused on new opportunities where there is a clear value proposition and a credible business model. Some of the companies the Virgin Group has backed in the past include the video doorbell Ring; mobile payments app Square; and the Rise Fund, which specialises in Impact Investing.  

Virgin Group has invested in: TransferWise, Slack, Ring, Square, Twitter, and Pinterest, amongst others.

Space

The Virgin Group has been an investor in the space sector for more than a decade. Its principal investments are Virgin Galactic – the world’s first and only publicly listed spaceflight company – and Virgin Orbit, a dedicated small satellite launch provider.

Clean energy

The Virgin Group invests in renewable projects with high growth potential underpinned by established technologies, which can drive positive change. One example is BMR Energy, which has clean energy projects across the Caribbean and Latin America.

Philanthropy

Alongside commercial activities, the Virgin Group is committed to philanthropy through its support for Virgin Unite - the entrepreneurial foundation of the Virgin Group and the Branson family, and Virgin StartUp, a not for profit organisation that delivers government-backed loans, mentoring and other support to entrepreneurs in the UK.


References
Virgin Group
Leadership team

Nik Powell (Founder)

Josh Bayliss (CEO)

Andrew Swaffield (Chief Commercial Officer)

Holly Branson (Chief Purpose and Vision Officer)

Peter Norris (Chairman)

Ian Woods (General Counsel and COO)

Ash Shah (Finance Director)

Evan Lovell (Chief Investment Officer )

Nikki Humphrey (Chief People Officer)

Number of Employees
20,000 - 50,000
Headquarters
London, GB
Established
1970
Social Media