Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson (born 18 July 1950) is an English
business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He founded the
Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies.
Branson expressed his desire to become an entrepreneur at a young age.
His 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 set up
Virgin Atlantic airline and expanded the Virgin
Records music label.
In March 2000, Branson was knighted at
Buckingham Palace for "services
to entrepreneurship". For his work in retail, music and transport
(with interests in land, air, sea and space travel), his taste for
adventure, and for his humanitarian work, he became a prominent
figure. In 2002, he was named in the BBC's poll of the 100
Greatest Britons. In 2004, he founded spaceflight corporation
Virgin Galactic, based at Mojave Air and Space Port, noted for the
In November 2017,
Forbes listed Branson's estimated net worth at $5.1
1 Early life
2.1 Record business
2.2 Business ventures
3 World record attempts
4 Television, film and print
5 Humanitarian initiatives
5.1 Climate change pledge
7 Honours and awards
8.1 Tax evasion
8.2 Assault allegation
9 Personal life
13 External links
Branson was born in Blackheath, London, the eldest of three children
Eve Branson (née Evette Huntley Flindt; born 1924), a former
ballet dancer and air hostess, and Edward James Branson (1918–2011),
a barrister. He has two younger sisters. His grandfather,
Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson, was a judge of
High Court of Justice
High Court of Justice and a Privy Councillor. Branson was
educated at Scaitcliffe School, a prep school in Surrey, before
briefly attending Cliff View House School in Sussex.
His third great-grandfather, John Edward Branson, left England for
India in 1793; John Edward's father, Harry Wilkins Branson, later
joined him in Madras. On the show Finding Your Roots, Branson was
shown to have 3.9% South Asian (Indian) DNA, likely through
intermarriage. He attended Stowe School, an independent school in
Buckinghamshire until the age of sixteen.
Branson has dyslexia and had poor academic performance; on his last
day at school, his headmaster, Robert Drayson, told him he would
either end up in prison or become a millionaire. Branson's parents
were supportive of his endeavours from an early age. His mother
was an entrepreneur; one of her most successful ventures was building
and selling wooden tissue boxes and wastepaper bins.
Branson started his record business from the church where he ran
Student magazine. He interviewed several prominent personalities of
the late 1960s for the magazine including
Mick Jagger and R. D.
Laing. Branson advertised popular records in Student, and it was
an overnight success. Trading under the name "Virgin", he sold
records for considerably less than the "High Street" outlets,
especially the chain W. H. Smith. Branson once said, "There is no
point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of
frustration." The name "Virgin" was suggested by one of Branson's
early employees because they were all new at business. At the
time, many products were sold under restrictive marketing agreements
that limited discounting, despite efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to
limit so-called resale price maintenance.
Branson eventually started a record shop in
Oxford Street in London.
In 1971, he was questioned in connection with the selling of records
in Virgin stores that had been declared export stock. The matter was
never brought before a court because Branson agreed to repay any
unpaid tax and a fine. His mother Eve re-mortgaged the family home in
order to help pay the settlement.
The Manor Studio, Richard Branson's recording studio in the manor
house at the village of
Shipton-on-Cherwell in Oxfordshire.
Earning enough money from his record store, Branson in 1972 launched
the record label
Virgin Records with Nik Powell, and bought a country
estate north of
Oxford in which he installed a residential recording
studio, The Manor Studio. He leased studio time to fledgling
artists, including multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, whose debut
Tubular Bells (1973) was the first release for Virgin Records
and became a chart-topping best-seller.
Virgin signed such controversial bands as the Sex Pistols, which other
companies were reluctant to sign.
Virgin Records would go on to sign
other artists including the Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, UB40, Steve
Winwood and Paula Abdul, and to become the world's largest independent
record label. It also won praise for exposing the public to such
obscure avant-garde music as Faust and Can.
Virgin Records also
Culture Club to the music world. In 1982, Virgin purchased
the gay nightclub Heaven. In 1991, in a consortium with David Frost,
Branson made an unsuccessful bid for three ITV franchisees under the
CPV-TV name. The early 1980s also saw his only attempt as a
producer—on the novelty record "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep", by Singing
Sheep in association with Doug McLean and Grace McDonald. The
recording was a series of sheep baa-ing along to a
drum-machine-produced track and reached number 42 in the UK charts in
In 1992, to keep his airline company afloat, Branson sold the Virgin
EMI for £500 million. Branson said that he wept
when the sale was completed because the record business had been the
very start of the Virgin empire. He created
V2 Records in 1996 in
order to re-enter the music business, owning 5% himself.
Main article: Timeline of Richard Branson's business ventures
Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984, launched Virgin Mobile
in 1999, and
Virgin Blue in Australia (now named Virgin Australia) in
2000. He was ninth in The
Sunday Times Rich List 2006 of the
wealthiest people or families in the UK, worth slightly more than
£3 billion. Branson wrote in his autobiography of the decision
to start an airline:
"My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently
unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them ... from the
perspective of wanting to live life to the full, I felt that I had to
Branson's first successful entry into the airline industry was during
a trip to Puerto Rico. His flight was cancelled, so he decided to
charter his own plane the rest of the way and offer a ride to the rest
of the stranded passengers for a small fee in order to cover the
In 1993, Branson took what many saw as being one of his riskier
business exploits by entering into the railway business. Virgin Trains
won the franchises for the former Intercity West Coast and
Cross-Country sectors of British Rail.
Virgin acquired European short-haul airline Euro Belgian Airlines in
1996 and renamed it Virgin Express. In 2006, the airline was merged
SN Brussels Airlines
SN Brussels Airlines forming Brussels Airlines. It also started a
national airline based in Nigeria, called Virgin Nigeria. Another
airline, Virgin America, began flying out of San Francisco
International Airport in August 2007.
A series of disputes in the early 1990s caused 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. After the so-called campaign
of "dirty tricks",
British Airways settled the case, giving £500,000
to Branson, a further £110,000 to his airline, and had to pay legal
fees of up to £3 million. Branson distributed his compensation
(the so-called "BA bonus") among his staff.
On 25 September 2004, Branson announced the signing of a deal under
which a new space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, will license the
technology behind Spaceship One—funded by
Microsoft co-founder Paul
Allen and designed by legendary American aeronautical engineer and
visionary Burt Rutan—to take paying passengers into suborbital
Virgin Galactic (wholly owned by Virgin Group) plans to make
flights available to the public with tickets priced at US$200,000
Scaled Composites White Knight Two. At the time, Branson
said that he planned to take his two children, 31-year-old Holly and
28-year-old Sam, on a trip to outer space when they ride the
SpaceShipTwo rocket plane on its first public flight then planned for
2014. As part of his promotion of the firm, Branson has added a
variation of the
Virgin Galactic livery to his personal business jet,
Dassault Falcon 900EX
Dassault Falcon 900EX "Galactic Girl" (G-GALX).
Branson's next venture with the Virgin group was Virgin Fuels, which
was set up to respond to global warming and exploit the recent spike
in fuel costs by offering a revolutionary, cheaper fuel for
automobiles and, in the near future, aircraft. Branson has stated that
he was formerly a global warming sceptic and was influenced in his
decision by a breakfast meeting with Al Gore.
On 21 September 2006, Branson pledged to invest the profits of Virgin
Virgin Trains in research for environmentally-friendly
fuels. The investment is estimated to be worth
On 4 July 2006, Branson sold his
Virgin Mobile company to UK cable TV,
broadband, and telephone company NTL/NTL:Telewest for almost
£1 billion. A new company was launched with much fanfare and
publicity on 8 February 2007, under the name Virgin Media. The
decision to merge his
Virgin Media Company with
NTL was to integrate
both of the companies' compatible parts of commerce. Branson used to
own three-quarters of Virgin Mobile, whereas now he owns 15 percent of
Virgin Media company.
In 2006, Branson formed
Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, an
entertainment company focused on creating new stories and characters
for a global audience. The company was founded with author Deepak
Chopra, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, and entrepreneurs Sharad Devarajan
and Gotham Chopra. Branson also launched the
Virgin Health Bank on 1
February 2007, offering parents-to-be the opportunity to store their
baby's umbilical cord blood stem cells in private and public stem-cell
Branson with Alberto Hazan in June 2007 helping launch Virgin Radio
In June 2006, a tip-off from
Virgin Atlantic led both UK and US
competition authorities to investigate price-fixing attempts between
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. In August 2007, British Airways
was fined £271 million over the allegations.
Virgin Atlantic was
given immunity for tipping off the authorities and received no
fine—a controversial decision the Office of Fair Trading defended as
being in the public interest.
On 9 February 2007, Branson announced the setting up of a new global
science and technology prize—The Virgin Earth Challenge—in the
belief that history has shown that prizes of this nature encourage
technological advancements for the good of mankind. The Virgin Earth
Challenge was to award $25 million to the individual or group who
are able to demonstrate a commercially viable design that will result
in the net removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases each
year for at least ten years without countervailing harmful effects.
This removal must have long-term effects and contribute materially to
the stability of the Earth's climate. Branson also announced that he
would be joined in the adjudication of the prize by a panel of five
judges, all world authorities in their respective fields: Al Gore, Sir
Crispin Tickell, Tim Flannery, James E. Hansen, and James Lovelock.
In July 2007, Branson purchased his Australian home, Makepeace Island,
in Noosa. In August 2007, Branson announced that he bought a
20-percent stake in Malaysia's AirAsia X.
Branson in April 2009 at the launch of
Virgin America in Orange
On 13 October 2007, Branson's
Virgin Group sought to add Northern Rock
to its empire after submitting an offer that would result in Branson
personally owning 30% of the company and changing the company's name
Northern Rock to Virgin Money. The
Daily Mail ran a campaign
against his bid; Vince Cable, financial spokesperson for the Liberal
Democrats, suggested in the House of Commons that Branson's criminal
conviction for tax evasion might be felt by some as a good enough
reason not to trust him with public money.
On 10 January 2008, Branson's Virgin Healthcare announced that it
would open a chain of health care clinics that would offer
conventional medical care alongside homeopathic and complementary
therapies, a development that was welcomed by Ben Bradshaw, the UK's
Plans where GPs could be paid for referring National Health Service
(NHS) patients to private Virgin services were abandoned in June 2008.
The BMA warned the plan would "damage clinical objectivity", there
would be a financial incentive for GPs to push patients toward the
Virgin services at the centre. Plans to take over an NHS Practice
in Swindon were abandoned in late September 2008.
In February 2009, Branson's Virgin organisation was reported as
bidding to buy the former Honda
Formula One team. Branson later stated
an interest in Formula One, but claimed that, before the Virgin brand
became involved with Honda or any other team,
Formula One would have
to develop a more economically efficient and environmentally
responsible image. At the start of the 2009
Formula One season on 28
March, it was announced that Virgin would be sponsoring the new Brawn
GP team, with discussions also under way about introducing a less
"dirty" fuel in the medium term. After the end of the season and
the subsequent purchase of
Brawn GP by Mercedes Benz, Branson invested
in an 80% buyout of Manor Grand Prix, with the team being
renamed Virgin Racing.
Virgin Hotels was launched under the Virgin Group. In
February 2018 Branson announced the first Virgin hotel would open in
Branson and Tony Fernandes, owner of
Air Asia and Lotus F1 Racing, had
a bet for the
2010 F1 season
2010 F1 season where the team's boss should work on the
winner's airline during a charity flight dressed as a stewardess.
Fernandes escaped as the winner of the bet, as Lotus Racing ended
tenth in the championship, while
Virgin Racing ended twelfth and last.
Branson kept his word after losing the bet, as he served his duty as a
stewardess on an
Air Asia flight between Perth and Kuala Lumpur on 12
Branson at the Time 100 Gala in May 2010. Known for his informal dress
code, this was a rare occasion he didn't wear an open shirt.
In 2010, Branson became patron of the UK's Gordon Bennett 2010 gas
balloon race, which has 16 hydrogen balloons flying across Europe.
In April 2010, Branson described the closure of large parts of
European airspace owing to volcanic ash as "beyond a joke". Some
scientists later concluded that serious structural damage to aircraft
could have occurred if passenger planes had continued to fly.
In April 2012,
Virgin Care commenced a five-year contract for
provision of a range of health services which had previously been
under the aegis of NHS Surrey, the local primary care trust. By
Virgin Care was in charge of over 230 services
In July 2012, Branson announced plans to build an orbital space launch
system, designated LauncherOne. Four commercial customers have
already contracted for launches and two companies are developing
standardised satellite buses optimised to the design of LauncherOne,
in expectation of business opportunities created by the new smallsat
In August 2012, the franchise for the West Coast Main Line, managed by
Virgin Rail since 1997, came to an end. The contract was awarded to
FirstGroup after a competitive tender process overseen by the
Department for Transport. Branson had expressed his concerns about the
tender process and questioned the validity of the business plan
submitted by FirstGroup. When Virgin Rail lost the contract, Branson
said he was convinced the civil servants had "got their maths wrong".
In October, after an investigation into the bidding process, the deal
was scrapped. The Transport Secretary
Patrick McLoughlin announced
there were "significant technical flaws" in the process and mistakes
had been made by transport staff. Virgin Rail continues to operate the
West Coast line.
In September 2014, Branson announced his investment in drone company
3D Robotics stating, "It's amazing to see what a little flying object
with a GoPro attached can do. Before they came along the alternative
was an expensive helicopter and crew. I'm really excited about the
3D Robotics sees in drones. They can do a lot of good in the
world, and I hope this affordable technology will give many more
people the chance to see our beautiful planet from such a powerful
In November 2015, Branson announced the addition of Moskito Island to
Virgin Limited Edition
Virgin Limited Edition portfolio. This resort, The Branson Estate
on Moskito Island, offers 11 bedrooms for 22 guests.
Virgin Group and Branson invested in Hyperloop One,
developing a strategic partnership between the two. Branson joined the
board of directors, and in December 2017 became its chairman.
Branson has been involved in many failed business ventures, such as
Virgin Cola, Virgin Cars, Virgin Publishing, Virgin Clothing and
Branson has been criticised by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation
organisation for profiting from selling trips to
SeaWorld and similar
themed parks that hold dolphins, whales and other sea life in
captivity for entertainment purposes.
World record attempts
The capsule from the
Virgin Atlantic Flyer balloon on display at the
Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England
A 1998 attempt at an around-the-world balloon flight by Branson,
Fossett, and Lindstrand ends in the
Pacific Ocean on 25 December 1998
Branson made several world record-breaking attempts after 1985, when
in the spirit of the
Blue Riband he attempted the fastest Atlantic
Ocean crossing. His first attempt in the "
Virgin Atlantic Challenger"
led to the boat capsizing in British waters and a rescue by RAF
helicopter, which received wide media coverage. Some newspapers called
for Branson to reimburse the government for the rescue cost. In 1986,
in his "
Virgin Atlantic Challenger II", with sailing expert Daniel
McCarthy, he beat the record by two hours. A year later his hot
air balloon "
Virgin Atlantic Flyer" crossed the Atlantic.
In January 1991, Branson crossed the Pacific from Japan to Arctic
Canada, 6,700 miles (10,800 km), in a balloon of 2,600,000 cubic
feet (74,000 m3). This broke the record, with a speed of 245
miles per hour (394 km/h).
Between 1995 and 1998, Branson, Per Lindstrand, Vladimir Dzhanibekov,
Larry Newman, and
Steve Fossett made attempts to circumnavigate the
globe by balloon. In late 1998 they made a record-breaking flight from
Morocco to Hawaii but were unable to complete a global flight before
Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones in
Breitling Orbiter 3
Breitling Orbiter 3 in March 1999.
In March 2004, Branson set a record by travelling from
Dover to Calais
Gibbs Aquada in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 6 seconds, the fastest
crossing of the
English Channel in an amphibious vehicle. The previous
record of six hours was set by two Frenchmen. The cast of Top
Gear, Jeremy Clarkson,
James May and Richard Hammond, attempted to
break this record in an amphibious vehicle which they had constructed
and, while successfully crossing the channel, did not break Branson's
record. After being intercepted by the Coast Guard and asked what
their intentions were, Clarkson remarked "..our intentions are to go
across the Channel faster than 'Beardy' Branson!". The Coast Guard
wished them good luck and left.
In September 2008, Branson and his children made an unsuccessful
attempt at an eastbound record crossing of the Atlantic Ocean under
sail in the 99 feet (30 m) sloop Virgin Money. The boat, also
known as Speedboat, is owned by
NYYC member Alex Jackson, who was a
co-skipper on this passage, with Branson and Mike Sanderson. After two
days, four hours, winds of force 7 to 9 (strong gale), and seas of 40
feet (12 m), a 'monster wave' destroyed the spinnaker, washed a
ten-man life raft overboard and severely ripped the mainsail. She
eventually continued to St. George's, Bermuda.
Television, film and print
Branson at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.
Branson has guest starred, usually playing himself, on several
television shows, including Friends, Baywatch, Birds of a Feather,
Only Fools and Horses, The Day Today, a special episode of the comedy
Goodness Gracious Me and Tripping Over. Branson made several
appearances during the nineties on the
BBC Saturday morning show Live
& Kicking, where he was referred to as 'the pickle man' by comedy
Trev and Simon (in reference to Branston Pickle).
Branson also appears in a cameo early in XTC's "Generals and Majors"
video. He was also the star of a reality television show on Fox called
The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best (2004), in which
sixteen contestants were tested for their entrepreneurship and sense
of adventure. It did not succeed as a rival show to Donald Trump's The
Apprentice and only lasted one season. According to Trump, Branson's
"show was terrible. And I thought he was terribly miscast. He’s a
lot of hot air, like his balloons".
His high public profile often leaves him open as a figure of
satire—the 2000 AD series Zenith features a parody of Branson as a
super villain, as the comic's publisher and favoured distributor and
the Virgin group were in competition at the time. He is also
The Simpsons episode "Monty Can't Buy Me Love" as the
tycoon Arthur Fortune, as the ballooning megalomaniac Richard Chutney
(a pun on Branson, as in Branston Pickle) in Believe Nothing, and
voiced himself in "The Princess Guide". The character Grandson Richard
39 in Terry Pratchett's Wings is modelled on Branson.
He has a cameo appearance in several films: Around the World in 80
Days (2004), where he played a hot-air balloon operator, and Superman
Returns (2006), where he was credited as a 'Shuttle Engineer' and
appeared alongside his son, Sam, with a Virgin Galactic-style
commercial suborbital shuttle at the centre of his storyline. He also
has a cameo in the
James Bond film Casino Royale (2006). Here, he is
seen as a passenger going through
Miami Airport security check-in and
being frisked – several
Virgin Atlantic planes appear soon after.
British Airways edited out Branson's cameo in their in-flight
screening of the movie. He makes a number of brief and disjointed
appearances in the documentary
Derek and Clive Get the Horn
Derek and Clive Get the Horn (1979),
which follows the exploits of
Peter Cook and
Dudley Moore recording
their final comedy album. Branson and his mother were also featured in
the documentary film Lemonade Stories. On the TV series Rove Live in
Rove McManus and
Sir Richard pushed each other into a
swimming pool fully clothed live on TV during a "Live at your house"
Branson is a
Star Trek fan and named his new spaceship VSS Enterprise
in honour of the
Star Trek spaceships, and in 2006, reportedly offered
William Shatner a ride on the inaugural space launch of Virgin
Galactic. In an interview in Time magazine, published on 10 August
2009, Shatner claimed that Branson approached him asking how much he
would pay for a ride on the spaceship. In response, Shatner asked "how
much would you pay me to do it?"
In August 2007, Branson announced on
The Colbert Report
The Colbert Report that he had
named a new aircraft Air Colbert. He later doused political satirist
and talk show host
Stephen Colbert with water from his mug. Branson
subsequently took a retaliatory splash from Colbert. The interview
quickly ended, with both laughing as shown on the episode aired on
Comedy Central on 22 August 2007. The interview was promoted on The
Report as the Colbert-Branson Interview Trainwreck. Branson then made
a cameo appearance in The Soup, playing an intern working under Joel
McHale who had been warned against getting into water fights with
Stephen Colbert, and being subsequently fired.
In March 2008, he launched
Virgin Mobile in India; during that period,
he made a cameo appearance in
London Dreams. In
July 2010, Branson narrated Australian sailor Jessica Watson's
documentary about her solo sailing trip around the world.
In April 2011, Branson appeared on CNN's Mainsail with Kate
Winslet. Together they re-enacted a famous scene from the 1997
film Titanic for the cameras. On 17 August 2011, he was featured
in the premier episode of Hulu's first long-form original production
entitled, A Day in the Life.
At the 2012
Pride of Britain Awards on ITV on 30 October, Branson,
along with Michael Caine, Elton John,
Simon Cowell and Stephen Fry,
recited Rudyard Kipling's poem "If—" in tribute to the 2012 British
Olympic and Paralympics athletes.
In the late 1990s, Branson and musician
Peter Gabriel discussed with
Nelson Mandela their idea of a small group of leaders working to solve
difficult global conflicts. On 18 July 2007, in Johannesburg,
South Africa, Mandela announced the formation of a new group, The
Kofi Annan serves as Chair of The Elders and Gro Harlem
Brundtland as Deputy Chair. The Elders is funded by a group of donors,
including Branson and Gabriel.
Richard Branson with his mother Eve, and the Board of Directors of the
International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children
In 1999, Branson became a founding sponsor of the International Centre
for Missing & Exploited Children ("ICMEC"), the goal of which is
to help find missing children, and to stop the exploitation of
children, as his mother Eve became a founding member of ICMEC's Board
Through the Carbon War Room, founded in 2009, the entrepreneur sought
solutions for global warming and the energy crisis. "We all have a
part to play, but I believe entrepreneurs will have a really
significant role to play in bringing investment and commercial skills
to help develop the new technologies needed to grow a post-carbon
economy", he said in his interview with Vision. Through Carbon War
Room initiative he has focused efforts on finding sustainable
alternatives for three industry sectors: shipping, energy efficiency
and aviation and renewable jet fuels.
He also launched Virgin Startup, an official delivery partner for the
UK's Start Up Loans programme. Through this new organisation, he was
to provide loans to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 30
UK-wide. A pilot of the scheme, which ran over 11 months, injected
£600,000 into 100 businesses.
Branson's other work in South Africa includes the Branson School of
Entrepreneurship, set up in 2005 as a partnership between Virgin
Unite, the non-profit foundation of Virgin, and entrepreneur Taddy
Blecher, the founder of CIDA City Campus, a university in
Johannesburg. The school aims to improve economic growth in South
Africa by supporting start-ups and micro-enterprises with skills,
mentors, services, networks and finance arrangements.
Fundraising activity to support the school is achieved by The Sunday
Times Fast Track 100, sponsored by Virgin Group, at its yearly event,
where places to join
Richard Branson on trips to South Africa to
provide coaching and mentoring to students are auctioned to attendees.
In 2009, Jason Luckhurst and Boyd Kershaw of Practicus, Martin
Ainscough of the Ainscough Group and Matthew Riley of Daisy
Communications helped raise £150,000 through the auction.
In March 2008, Branson hosted an environmental gathering at his
private island, Necker Island, in the Caribbean with several prominent
entrepreneurs, celebrities, and world leaders. They discussed global
warming-related problems facing the world, hoping that the meeting
would be a precursor to future discussions regarding similar problems.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, co-founder Jimmy
Larry Page of
Google were in attendance.
On 8 May 2009, Branson took over Mia Farrow's hunger strike for three
days in protest of the Sudanese government expulsion of aid groups
Darfur region. In 2010, he and the Nduna Foundation
(founded by Amy Robbins), and Humanity United (an organization backed
by Pam Omidyar, the wife of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar) founded
Branson at the
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in
Branson is a signatory of Global Zero campaign, a non-profit
international initiative for the elimination of all nuclear weapons
worldwide. Since its launch in Paris in December 2008, Global
Zero has grown to 300 leaders, including current and former heads of
state, national security officials and military commanders, and
400,000 citizens worldwide; developed a practical step-by-step plan to
eliminate nuclear weapons; launched an international student campaign
with 75 campus chapters in eight countries; and produced a documentary
film, Countdown to Zero, in partnership with
Lawrence Bender and
Since 2010, Branson has served as a Commissioner on the Broadband
Commission for Digital Development, a UN initiative which promotes
universal access to broadband services. In 2011, Branson served on
Global Commission on Drug Policy with former political and
cultural leaders of Latin America and elsewhere, "in a bid to boost
the effort to achieve more humane and rational drug laws."
In December 2013, Branson urged companies to boycott
Uganda because of
its "anti-homosexuality bill". Branson stated that it would be
"against my conscience to support this country...governments must
realize that people should be able to love whoever they want."
In 2014, Branson joined forces with
African Wildlife Foundation
African Wildlife Foundation and
partner WildAid for the "Say No" Campaign, an initiative to bring
public awareness to the issues of wildlife poaching and
Branson is an opponent of the death penalty, stating: "the death
penalty is always cruel, barbaric and inhumane. It has no place in the
world." The U.S. is one of the few countries that practiced the
death penalty in 2015, and on 30 September 2015 Branson released a
letter in support of American inmate
Richard Glossip on the day he was
due to be executed, buying an ad in
The Oklahoman newspaper which had
advocated the execution. Branson stated the evidence against
Glossip was flawed and that "every person is deserving of a fair
trial", adding: "Your state is about to execute a man whose guilt has
not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
Climate change pledge
In 2006, Branson made a high-profile pledge to invest $3 billion
toward addressing global warming over the course of the following
decade. However, author and activist
Naomi Klein has
criticised Branson for contributing "well under $300 million" as of
2014, far below the originally stated goal. Additionally, Klein
says Virgin airlines' greenhouse gas emissions increased considerably
in the years following his pledge.
In the 1980s, Branson was briefly given the post of "litter Tsar" by
Margaret Thatcher—charged with "keeping Britain tidy". In
2005 he declared that there were only negligible differences between
the two main parties on economic matters. He was suggested as a
candidate for Mayor of
London before the first 2000 election, with
polls indicating he would be a viable candidate, but he did not
Branson has supported continuing British membership of the European
Union and was opposed to the 2016 referendum. On 28 June 2016,
interviewed for ITV's Good Morning Britain, he said that his company
had lost a third of its value as a result of the referendum result and
that a planned venture, employing over 3,000 people, which he had
announced before the referendum, had been shelved. He gave his backing
for a second referendum.
In August 2016 he publicly attacked
Jeremy Corbyn in what became known
as the traingate scandal. It subsequently became apparent that
the pictures released by Branson were misleading.
Honours and awards
Branson at a conference in San Diego, California, on 8 July 2013
In 1993, Branson was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of
Technology from Loughborough University.
In the New Years Honours list dated 30 December 1999, Elizabeth II
signified her intention to confer the honour of
Knight Bachelor on him
for his "services to entrepreneurship". He was knighted by
Charles, Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales on 30 March 2000 at an investiture in
Buckingham Palace. Also in 2000, Branson received the Tony Jannus
Award for his accomplishments in commercial air transportation.
Branson appears at No. 85 on the 2002 list of
100 Greatest Britons
100 Greatest Britons on
BBC and voted for by the public. Branson was also ranked in 2007's
Time magazine "Top 100 Most Influential People in the World". On 7
December 2007, United Nations Secretary General
Ban Ki-Moon presented
Branson with the
United Nations Correspondents Association Citizen of
the World Award for his support for environmental and humanitarian
In 2009, Branson was voted the UK's "Celebrity Dream Boss" in an
opinion poll by Cancer Research UK. On 24 January 2011, Branson
was awarded the German Media Prize (organised by "Media Control
Charts"), previously handed to former US president
Bill Clinton and
the Dalai Lama. On 14 November 2011, Branson 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". On 11 February 2012,
Branson was honoured with the National Academy of Recording Arts and
Sciences' President's Merit Award for his contributions to the music
On 2 June 2013, Branson received an honorary degree of Doctor Honoris
Kaunas Technology University
Kaunas Technology University in Kaunas, Lithuania. On
15 May 2014, Branson received the 2014 Business for Peace Award,
awarded annually by the Business for Peace Foundation in Oslo,
On 21 September 2014, Branson was recognized by
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times as
the most admired business person over the last five decades. On 9
October 2014, Branson was named as the No. 1 LGBT ally by the
OUTstanding organisation. On 29 October 2015, Branson was listed
by UK-based company Richtopia at number 1 in the list of 100 Most
Influential British Entrepreneurs. In October 2015, Branson
received the International Crisis Group Chairman's Award at the United
Nations Development Programme's In Pursuit of Peace Awards
In 1971, Branson was convicted and briefly jailed for tax evasion,
having fraudulently obtained export documents for records to be sold
on the domestic market in order to avoid paying Value Added
Tax. Customs officials caught onto the scheme and executed a
sting operation, marking records bought for the international market
with invisible ink and subsequently buying them on the domestic
market. Branson was advised of the sting by an anonymous tip-off and
attempted to dispose of the evidence, but this was
Branson's business empire is owned by a complicated series of offshore
trusts and companies.
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times stated that his wealth is
calculated at £3 billion; if he were to retire to his Caribbean
island and liquidate all of this, he would pay relatively little in
tax.[dead link] Branson has been criticised for his business
strategy, and has been accused of being a
carpetbagger. Branson responded that he is living
on Necker for health rather than tax reasons.
In 2013, Branson described himself as a "tax exile", having saved
millions in tax by surrendering his British citizenship. This was
echoed by Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Labour's John McDonnell,
in 2016, amid calls for his knighthood to be revoked.
On 27 November 2017
Richard Branson was accused of sexual assault to a
singer Antonia Jenae. A spokesperson to Branson confirmed to The Sun
that members of
Joss Stone band were invited for a party in 2010, but
he vehemently denied the claims stating he had "no recollection" of
the events, and that the claims were "patently false".
Branson kite surfing at Necker Island
Branson married Kristen Tomassi in 1972 and divorced her in 1979. He
has a daughter Holly and a son Sam with his second wife, Joan
Templeman. He met her in 1976. He stated in an interview with Piers
Morgan that he and Joan also had a daughter named Clare Sarah, who
died when she was four days old in 1979.
In 1998, Branson released his autobiography, titled Losing My
Virginity, an international best-seller. Branson was deeply
saddened by the disappearance of fellow adventurer
Steve Fossett in
September 2007; the following month he wrote an article for Time
magazine, titled "My Friend, Steve Fossett".
In 2013 Branson became President of the Old Stoic Society of Stowe
School. In March 2015 Branson said that almost all drug use
should be decriminalised in the UK, following the example of
Branson was ordained as a minister by the Universal Life Church
Monastery. Branson is also an experienced kitesurfer, holding
some world records in the sport. In August 2016 Branson was
injured while riding his bicycle in the
British Virgin Islands
British Virgin Islands and
suffered torn ligaments and a cracked cheek as a result. He was taken
to hospital in Miami for X-rays and scans.
In 2017, Branson's Necker Island home was left uninhabitable after
Hurricane Irma hit. It is the second time the Necker Island home
has been severely damaged after the building caught fire when it was
struck by lightning caused by
Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Branson has stated in a number of interviews that he has been much
influenced by non-fiction books. He most commonly mentions Nelson
Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, explaining that Mandela
was "one of the most inspiring men I have ever met and had the honour
to call my friend." Owing to his interest in humanitarian and
ecological issues, Branson also lists Al Gore's best-selling book, An
Inconvenient Truth, and
The Revenge of Gaia
The Revenge of Gaia by
James Lovelock amongst
his favourites. According to Branson's book, Screw It, Let's Do It:
Lessons in Life, he is also a fan of Jung Chang's
Wild Swans and
Antony Beevor's Stalingrad. In fiction, Branson has long
admired the character Peter Pan, and in 2006 he founded Virgin
Comics LLC, stating that
Virgin Comics will give "a whole generation
of young, creative thinkers a voice".
Branson, Richard (1998). Losing My Virginity: How I've Survived, Had
Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way. Virgin Books.
Branson, Richard (2006). Screw It, Let's Do It. Virgin Books.
Branson, Richard (2008). Business Stripped Bare. Virgin Books.
Branson, Richard (2010). Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen and
Blasting Into Space. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-1-905264-91-9.
Branson, Richard (2011). Screw Business as Usual. Portfolio/Penguin.
Branson, Richard (2013). Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won't Teach You
at Business School. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0-75351-992-9.
Branson, Richard (2014). The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh
and Lead. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-1-90526-490-2.
Branson, Richard (2017). Finding My Virginity. Ebury Publishing.
Also published as: The Virgin Way: If It's Not Fun, It's Not Worth
Doing and The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership
Sir Richard (Charles Nicholas). ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who.
Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint
of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
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West Coast Main Line
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Richard Branson Explains Why He Just Invested In Drones". Business
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Richard Branson criticised for selling
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Retrieved 11 June 2011.
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Life': Original Series Premieres on
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Retrieved 8 September 2011.
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Retrieved 4 January 2010.
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