Richard Branson: biography, Virgin & facts

Richard Charles Nicolas Branson or Sir Richard Branson is a British business magnate and commercial pilot particularly known for founding the Virgin Group, which controls around 400 companies in various fields. His journey from a teen entrepreneur to the founder and chairman of the Virgin Group is proof of his unwavering spirit and his audacious approach toward business.  

Richard Branson
BornJuly 18, 1950,
Blackheath London
Citizenship British
Occupation Entrepreneur
TitleFounder of virgin
Networth$3.1 billion

Richard Branson’s Early life  

He was born in Blackheath London on July 18, 1950. He was born to Edward James Branson, a barrister, and his mother was Eve Branson a ballet dancer and air hostess. Richard has two younger sisters Lindy and Vanessa Branson. His grandfather Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson, was a judge of the High Court of Justice and a Privy Councillor.  

Richard Branson’s Education

He was educated at Scaitcliffe School, a prep school in Surrey, before attending Cliff View House School in Sussex for a short period. He later went on to attend the Stowe School, a private school in

Buckinghamshire until the age of sixteen. He was severely dyslexic, which affected his studies, resulting in poor academics and a reputation as a student. On the last day of his school, his headmaster, Robert Drayson, told him, “Branson, I predict that you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.” Said Richard in his autobiography “Losing my virginity”.  

Richard Branson’s Career  

Beginning of his Career

After dropping out of school at the age of 16 he started his first business venture, which was growing Christmas trees and breeding birds, which as expected by many was a drastic failure.  

However in 1966, at the age of 16, he launched his magazine named Student, a youth-oriented magazine, alongside Nik Powell. The first issue of the magazine appeared in January 1968, and a year later, Branson’s net worth was estimated at £50,000. He even interviewed John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Vanessa Redgrave, and other celebrities. Even though, the magazine was not as successful as he hoped it gave him his initial taste of success. The magazine also played an important role in the mail-order record business, which he later opened.  

He also started the Student Advisory Center, a nonprofit referral service for troubled youth but it was later slammed on with a lawsuit by the local authorities, who charged the center with obscenity for using the words “venereal disease” in its promotional material. Branson however was successful in getting the charges dropped.  

Branson used his magazine to advertise popular albums, driving up his record sales. His business sold records for considerably less than the “High Street” outlets, especially the chain WHSmith.  

The very next year he opened his first Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street in London as his business started picking up pace from there.  

Establishment of Virgin Records

In 1972, after earning enough money from his record store in Oxford Street, He launched his record label Virgin Records along with Nik Powell. The company was named “Virgin” because they were all new to business by one of Branson’s early employees.  

He bought a manor, north of Oxford, in which he installed a recording studio. He leased the studio to a multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, whose debut albu album Tubular Bells was the first release for Virgin Records and became a chart-topping best-seller of the time.  

In the beginning, Virgin only signed fledgling or controversial artists such as Sex Pistols, Rolling Stones, and others, which other record companies were reluctant to sign.  

In a few years, Virgin became the world’s largest independent record label. It was particularly praised for exposing the public to such lesser-known avant-garde music as Faust and Can. Virgin Records also introduced Culture Club to the musical world.  

By 1979, Branson’s net worth was estimated to be £5 million.  

In 1978, Virgin Records took its initial footsteps and spread internationally.  

Establishment of Virgin Atlantic Airways  

Branson’s entrepreneurial spirit extended beyond the music industry.

His first successful entry into the airline industry was during a business trip to Puerto Rico, where his flight was canceled, so he decided to charter his plane the rest of the way and offered a ride to the rest of the stranded passengers for a small fee to cover the cost. Highly inspired by this incident he decided to launch his own Airways.  

 Skipping ahead in 1984, he launched Virgin Atlantic Airways, a bold move to challenge the dominance of British Airways in the aviation sector. Despite facing significant opposition and skepticism from industry experts, Branson’s determination and focus on customer experience led Virgin Atlantic to become a formidable competitor. The airline introduced innovative features such as onboard bars, flatbed seats, and personalized service, setting new standards in the Industry.

Smaller Ventures with Virgin  

Inspired by the success of Virgin Atlantic, Branson continued to diversify the Virgin brand into various sectors. Virgin Trains, an innovative rail service offering enhanced customer experience, was launched in 1997. During that time Branson took many ventures that were riskier business exploits by entering into the railway business during the privatisation of British Rail in the late 1990s. Virgin rail group won the InterCity CrossCountry and InterCity West Coast franchises. Both franchises were scheduled to run for 15 years.  

In 1999, Virgin Mobile, a mobile phone service provider, disrupted the telecommunications market with its customer-centric approach and unique offerings. However, he sold the company to UK cable TV, broadband, and telephone company NTL:Telewest for £ 900 million.  

After selling Virgin Mobile, he ventured further and founded Virgin Media, a provider of broadband, television, and telephony services, further expanding the Virgin Group’s presence in the telecommunications industry. Later the company with NTL, integrated the compatible areas of both businesses.  

In 2006, he founded Virgin Comics and Virgin Animations, focused on creating new stories and characters for a global audience. The company was founded by author Deepak Chopra, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, and entrepreneurs Sharad Devarajan and Gotham Chopra.

Virgin’s entry into Space Travel

Branson’s entrepreneurial pursuits have not been limited to Earth. In 2004, he founded Virgin Galactic, a company focused on commercial space travel. The company was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and designed by Burt Rutan, an aeronautical engineer. Branson’s vision of making space accessible to tourists was realized through Virgin Galactic’s development of suborbital spaceflights. The company’s groundbreaking efforts in the space tourism sector have captivated the world’s imagination and pushed the boundaries of human exploration. The tickets then were priced at US $200,000.  

Virgin towards Healthcare

In 2008, Virgin Healthcare announced that it would open a chain of healthcare clinics that would offer conventional medical care alongside homeopathic and complementary therapies, a development that was welcomed by Ben Bradshaw, health minister of the United Kingdom.  

Virgin – during the COVID-19

In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a dramatic decline in international air travel. Branson and Virgin attracted criticism, during this tough time by asking staff to take eight weeks’ unpaid leave. He had to put his luxury Necker Island up as collateral for a commercial loan to save Virgin Atlantic from going bankrupt. Branson said in an interview: “Over the five decades I have been in business, this is the most challenging time we have ever faced… From a business perspective, the damage to many is unprecedented and the length of the disruption remains worryingly unknown.”  

On 5 May 2020, the airline announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they would lay off 3000 staff, reduce the fleet size to 35, retire the Boeing 747-400, and not resume operations from Gatwick following the pandemic.

Well-known flops of Virgin

Virgin is one the biggest companies on the earth but the journey to becoming the biggest company wasn’t easy. Here are some of the well-known failures of Virgin, which Branson claims to have played a vital role in life:  

  1. Virgin Cola:  

This was one of the highly popularized Virgin’s failures. The drink, which was softly launched only on Virgin’s planes and in its cinemas, managed to peak at a small but significant 0.5% market share in the US, according to The Guardia. The production of the drink stopped in 2012 because the giant soft drink companies from the US fought diligently.  

Branson however quite enjoyed the failure and said in one of his interviews, “That business taught me not to underestimate the power of the world’s leading soft drink makers. I’ll never again make the mistake of thinking that all large, dominant companies are sleepy!”

  • Virgin Cosmetics:

In 1997, Virgin Cosmetics was founded which sold beauty products, jewellery, and homeware. This company was later sold to Ros Simmons and Ratan Daryani in 2009 and re-launched as Vie at Home. Vie at Home became defunct in 2011.  

  • Virgin Clothing:

Launched in 1998, this brand consisted of men’s and women’s clothing, and footwear accessories aimed at customers ranging from ages 18 to 35. It was sold in UK retailers and department stores but was dissolved soon after its launch.  

  • Virgin Brides:

Virgin Brides opened its doors in several locations throughout England in 1996. For the launch of the store, Branson shaved his beard and wore a wedding dress! However, the venture into bridal wear was also short-lived, just like many others on our list.  

“I think because there aren’t many virgin brides, it never really took off,” Branson said, in one of his interviews.  

Lawsuits and Controversies faced by Richard Branson  

1) In 1971, Branson was briefly jailed for tax evasion, having fraudulently obtained export documents for records to be sold on the domestic market to avoid paying Purchase Tax. Customs officials caught onto the scheme and executed a sting operation. Branson was told about the sting and attempted to dispose of the evidence, but it was unsuccessful.

2) In the early 1990s there was a heavy tension between Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, which viewed Virgin as an emerging competitor. Virgin subsequently accused British Airways of poaching its passengers, hacking its computers, and leaking stories to the press that portrayed Virgin negatively, for which they were slammed with a lawsuit by Branson. It was eventually settled by giving £500,000 to Branson, a further £110,000 to his airline, and had to pay legal fees of up to £3 million.

 Richard Branson’s Interests other than Business

Richard Branson is not only famous for his entrepreneurial persistence but also for his adventurous spirit. He has been involved in various ventures, including aviation, music, space tourism, and more. Some of his notable achievements are:

1) Fastest Transatlantic Crossing by Boat: In 1986, Branson broke the record for the fastest transatlantic crossing by boat. His powerboat, Virgin Atlantic Challenger II, completed the journey from New York to England in just under 3 days.

2) Oldest Person to Kitesurf the English Channel: In 2012, at the age of 61, Branson became the oldest person to kitesurf across the English Channel.

3) First person to cross the Atlantic in the largest air balloon: In 1987, Richard Branson became the only person to cross the Atlantic in the largest hot air balloon. In 1991, he broke his record by crossing 6700 miles of the Pacific in a Virgin hot air balloon of 2600,000 cubic feet at a speed of 245 miles per hour.

4) Enthusiastic Cyclist: In August 2016, he was severely injured while riding his bicycle in the British Virgin Islands, resulting in torn ligaments and a cracked cheek.

The Net Worth of Richard Branson 

As of 2023, his net worth is estimated to be $3.1 billion.

Richard Branson’s Achievements and Accolades  

Regardless, Richard Branson has received tons of awards and accolades for his company. Some of his
most important achievements are:

1) In 1992, he received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement.

2) He was knighted by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales on 30 March 2000 at an investiture in Buckingham

3) In 2011, he 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”.

4) In 2014, he received the 2014 Business for Peace Award, awarded annually by the Business for Peace Foundation in Oslo, Norway.

Richard Branson’s appearance on Television  

In October 2017, Richard Branson appeared on the Season 9 Premiere of Shark Tank as a guest investor. He enthusiastically invested in Locker Board; a sustainable line of skateboards invented by an 11-yearold. He even said that the young man reminded him of himself when he was little. Branson was the richest Shark to have appeared on the show.  

Philanthropic Efforts were made by Richard Branson  

1) In 2004 he established Virgin Unite, a non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, intending to tackle Makel issues and make a positive impact on various social and environmental challenges. The foundation focuses on initiatives related to climate change, conservation, poverty alleviation, and supporting young entrepreneurs.

2) He is a member of “The Elders”, an independent group of global leaders working together for peace, justice, and human rights.

3) He also co-founded The Carbon War Room to accelerate sustainable solutions and fight against climate change. The organization focuses on promoting sustainable energy alternatives and fostering economic growth that benefits the environment.

4) As an ocean advocate, Branson is an active member of Ocean Unite, an organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the world’s oceans.

5) In 2007, He launched the Virgin Earth Challenge, a competition with a $25 million prize for the individual or group that can demonstrate a scalable and sustainable solution to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Personal life

Richard’s personal life is not too shabby compared to his work life  

In 1972, he got married to Kristen Tomassi 1972 and divorced her in 1979. This couple had no children together.  

In 1989, Branson got married for the second time to Joan Templeman, with whom he had been in a relationship since 1976. The two first met in 1976 at Virgin Records studios and dated for more than 10 years before tying the knot. This duo has two children together, Holly Branson born in 1981, a son Sam Branson born in 1985, and also a deceased daughter Clara Sarah born in 1979.

Lesser-known facts about Sir Richard Branson  

1) You might have heard many Billionaires owning yachts and private jets but Richard owns a submarine,
designed by renowned engineer Graham Hawkes.

2) Branson owns a whole Island called the Necker island which is a part of the British Virgin Islands.

3) Branson only paid $180,000 for buying the Necker Island which is now worth over $200,000,000.

4) Branson claims to have cheated death on various occasions. In his second autobiography, he reminisced the times he almost died or had near-death experiences which was as many as 71 times.

5) In 1987, Branson became the only person to cross the Atlantic in the largest hot air balloon.

6) Branson is extremely fond of collecting cars.

7) At the age of 70, Branson became the third oldest person to journey into space.

Famous quotes said by Sir Richard Branson  

1) My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long university education that I never had — every day I’m learning something new.

– Richard Branson

2) You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.

– Richard Branson

3) The best way of learning about anything is by doing.

– Richard Branson

4) Business opportunities are like buses: there’s always another one coming.

– Richard Branson

5) If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.

– Richard Branson

6) Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.

– Richard Branson

7) Engage your emotions at work. Your instincts and emotions are there to help you.

– Richard Branson


Sir Richard Branson’s life has not been without challenges and setbacks. His ventures have faced many difficulties including financial difficulties, operational hurdles, and even public controversies. However, his resilience and ability to learn from failures have been key to his continued success. His impact in the world goes much beyond his financial success. He serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs encouraging them to think outside the box, pursue their passions, and make to positive difference.  


1) Who is Sir Richard Branson?

Sir Richard Branson is a British entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is best known for founding the Virgin
Group, a multinational conglomerate that consists of various industries.

2) When was Richard Branson born?

Richard Branson was born on July 18, 1950, in Blackheath, London, United Kingdom.

3) What is Virgin Group?

Virgin Group is a conglomerate founded by Richard Branson in 1970. It began as a record store and
expanded into various industries, including Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and
Virgin Trains as the most successful ones.

4) Is Sir Richard Branson involved in space travel?

Yes, He has been actively involved in space travel. He founded Virgin Galactic, a spaceflight company, in

5) Has Richard Branson been to space?

Yes, Richard Branson traveled to space aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity on July 11, 2021. This flight
marked a significant milestone for Virgin Galactic’s space tourism ambitions.

6) When did Richard Branson start Virgin Records?

Richard Branson started Virgin Records in 1972. It was one of the first businesses under the Virgin brand.

7) What is Virgin Galactic?

Virgin Galactic is a spaceflight company founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2004. The company aims to
provide suborbital space tourism experiences to customers.

8) Does Richard Branson have any books published?

Yes, Richard Branson has written several books. Some of his popular titles include “Losing My Virginity,”
“Screw It, Let’s Do It,” “Finding My Virginity,” and “The Virgin Way.”


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