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Sir (he's been knighted) Richard Charles Branson is a British business magnate and billionaire, well-known around the globe for founding and running the Virgin Group, which runs over 400 companies and business ventures, including Virgin Atlantic Airlines.
Despite being a school dropout at 16, he managed to forge a massively successful career for himself and by virtue of his love for adventure and crazy public spectacles, became a household name around the world.
Branson is worth over 2.58 billion dollars and is currently the UK's fifth richest man. The Virgin Group brings in over 20 billion dollars in revenue each year.
Early Days and Career
Born in Blackheath, London in a reasonably upper-class and well-off family, Branson received his education at the Scaitliffe School until he was 13, switched to another at sixteen, and eventually dropped out altogether.
Branson was a poor student, suffering from dyslexia and displaying slow learning abilities. However, in his own words, he "discovered his ability to connect with others" and used this to his benefit.
His first business venture was the launch of a magazine named 'Student' at the age of 16 and it was very successful.
He established the Virgin Records chain in 1972, which helped him expand his brand quickly; by 1980, he managed to set up Virgin Atlantic Airways and then Virgin Mobile in 1999. Today there are over 400 companies under his brand, running the gamut from space tourism to books, colas, TV, and radio.
Despite being terrible academically, he always demonstrated excellence as far as sports were concerned, especially while swimming, which would explain his avid interest in yachting and sailing. He is known to maintain a ‘live life to its fullest’ mantra and has earned a reputation as one of the most flamboyant billionaires around with an insatiable appetite for both business and adventure.
He has been with wife Joan Templeman since 1981 and has two children, Holly and Sam. The family resides in London.
Branson's developed a reputation as a playful daredevil, and he's well-known for many stunts and record-setting attempts.
-In 1998, he attempted to break a world record by flying around the world in a balloon with Steve Fossett and Per Lindstrand.
-In 1985, he also tried to set a record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, which resulted in the boat capsizing and needed helicopter rescue.
-He is infamous for having once made a bet with owner of Lotus F1 Racing (Tony Fernandes), where the losing team’s owner had to work on the winner’s airline, dressed as a stewardess for the day. Branson lost and happily complied with the terms of the bet.
Branson has always been hugely politically active, a big admirer of Nelson Mandela, a founder of international organization ‘The Elders’ and a signatory of the ‘Global Zero’ nuclear disarmament campaign.
He has supported Kenya hugely through its troubles and played an active role in establishing a better education system in South Africa. His Virgin Group also has a non-profit organization called Virgin Charity Unite dedicated only towards charitable causes and their funding.
-“Business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”
-“And obviously, from our own personal point of view, the principal challenge is a personal challenge.”
-“And you know, I've had great fun turning quite a lot of different industries on their head and making sure those industries will never be the same again, because Virgin went in and took them on.”
-“I believe in benevolent dictatorship, provided I am the dictator.”
-“I cannot remember a moment in my life when I have not felt the love of my family. We were a family that would have killed for each other--and we still are.”
-“I love the freedom of movement that my phone gives me. That has definitely transformed my life.”
Branson owns his own set of islands in the British Virgin Islands and is also a renowned and passionate sailor with a penchant for expensive yachts of which he’s owned many. Currently he owns a 200,000 dollar catamaran named Necker and Belle, a 105-foot luxurious yacht infamous for high-speed performances and available for rent at 85,000 dollars per week.
Branson's also has interests beyond Earth; the Virgin Group includes a company called Virgin Galactic, which plans to provide sub-orbital space flights to the paying public, along with space science missions and the launching of small satellites. They also hope for orbital human spaceflights in the future.
All in all, Branson sure knows how to live the life of a billionaire to the fullest and we love him for it!
-Pictures courtesy Reuters-
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